How Hot Weather Affects Arthritis

Olivia Durkee

| 3 min read

Olivia Durkee is a Corporate Communications Intern at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. She is a rising senior at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor studying Communications and Media. She enjoys hiking, reading, crocheting and camping in her free time.

As the temperatures in Michigan begin to rise, arthritis symptoms can worsen in the heat. Here’s what you need to know, and when you should reach out to your doctor.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a common condition that affects the joints, causing pain stiffness and inflammation. While there are over 100 different kinds of arthritis, the most common types are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, involves the wearing away of the cartilage that covers the bones in your joints. It can produce inflammatory symptoms, but primarily destroys cartilage over time. The disease affects an estimated 27 million Americans and generally develops later in life.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, beginning with the lining of joints. This kind of arthritis has a rapid onset and symptoms can begin to develop and worsen within a matter of weeks. It affects an estimated 1.3 million Americans and can develop in patients anytime between the ages of 30 and 60 years old.

How heat affects arthritis

As temperatures rise, people with arthritis often find themselves suffering from increased joint pain. Heat can cause the fluid levels in our joints to increase, and this results in increased inflammation, pain, and discomfort. Warmer or dryer temperatures can also lead to dehydration, further exacerbating arthritis symptoms.
Hot weather is often accompanied by higher levels of humidity. The spikes in moisture in the air can increase joint pain or trigger arthritis flares.

How to manage arthritis in the heat

If you are living with arthritis, there are steps that you can take to maintain and manage the chronic condition in the warmer months. Talk to your health care provider about your condition and any concerns you may have about impacts during the warm weather months.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking more water helps dilute the salt levels in your body, which will overall help reduce swelling and inflammation. Hydration is especially important in these warmer months as it helps you avoid dehydration and worsened arthritis symptoms.
  • Keep a healthy diet: A healthy diet can help you to maintain a healthy weight and provide the nutrients that are essential for joint health. Look for foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, nuts and seeds to help mitigate the increased symptoms caused by the rising temperatures, as omega-3s slow the production of inflammatory compounds in your joints.
  • Stay active: Participating in any kind of low-impact activity, like swimming, cycling, water aerobics or walking can help mitigate the pain and discomfort caused by heightened arthritis symptoms. by reducing stress on the joints and promoting flexibility and mobility. These activities can also improve circulation and help reduce joint inflammation. Always discuss new exercise plans with your primary care provider before starting.

Talk to your doctor

When it comes to joint pain, there are a multitude of causes and diagnoses for various symptoms and afflictions. Always consult your health care provider about any increased or abnormal joint pain in order to get the most accurate diagnosis to begin your treatment process.
 

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