With Stormy Weather Comes Rheumatoid Arthritis

Leslie Rott Health Guide
  • I've talked before about how the weather - specifically the rain, cold, and the change in barometric pressure - can impact RA.


    But what about the more freak weather occurrences that seem to be happening as a result of global warming?


    Last month, a tornado touched down about 10 miles from where I live. That's right. We had tornado activity in Michigan in March. It was also 80 degrees. The next week, it was 40 degrees.


    In Michigan, tornado season usually occurs mainly in July and August. And the reality is that in most cases, we don't take the threat all that seriously.


    I mean, even in the case of this latest storm, I stood by the window of my third-floor apartment and watched the sky turn green, and the pea-sized hail come and go.

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    Because these things don't happen in my (our) backyard, right? In some ways, that is just like illness. You never think it is going to happen to you, and when it does, you are powerless to stop it because you are caught totally unaware.


    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "Although global warming may bring some localized benefits, such as fewer winter deaths in temperate climates and increased food production in certain areas, the overall health effects of a changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly negative" (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs266/en/).


    Also according to the WHO, the incidence of "weather-related natural disasters has more than triple since the 1960s" (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs266/en/). Further, "extreme weather events will destroy homes, medical facilities and other essential services" (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs266/en/).


    While the WHO does not speak directly about chronically ill people, it is not difficult to imagine that those whose illnesses are impacted by stress and other environmental factors, will inevitably feel the brunt of climate change; not to mention that those with mobility-impairments may have difficulty getting out of the way of fast moving storms when they hit.


    I have a theory that climate change, and the severe weather fluctuations that come with it, have had a pronounced effect on the incidence rates of autoimmune illnesses, which seem to be on the rise (http://www.gene.com/gene/products/education/immunology/ad-factsheet.html).


    Granted, I'm not a scientist. But I am a person who has seen a definite increase in my illness symptoms from the severe weather changes that we are experiencing.


    I know that some people use climate change and global warming as a scapegoat for just about anything. But in the case of autoimmune diseases, specifically RA, I think that there is some truth to the fact that environmental changes are having a significant (and most likely negative) impact.


    I'll admit it. You'll hear no argument from me about the mild winter that we experienced in Michigan this year. My joints have been much happier as a result. However, there is part of me that wonders at what cost this seeming convenience will have in the future.


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    I also admit that having a tornado touch down so close to where I live was definitely too close for comfort.


    As the weather changes, and we see an increase in the severity of extreme weather, I know that at least for me, I will see changes in my RA symptoms and their severity.

Published On: April 16, 2012