As the temperature increased, so did the risk of rash, joint inflammation, kidney problems, and other lupus symptoms.
Shifts in weather patterns have long been associated with a variety of health ailments, from seasonal allergies to migraine and joint pain. Now a new study suggests that changes in the outdoor environment may make people who have lupus more susceptible to flare-ups of specific symptoms.
The study, presented at the presented at the 2019 American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Professionals Annual Meeting in Atlanta, analyzed data on 1,628 patients with lupus who had checkups between 1999 and 2017 as well as environmental and atmospheric data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal: to determine whether the environmental weather conditions 10 days before a checkup would correlate to changes in patient symptoms.
According to the authors, “there is a strong association between changes in atmospheric and environmental variables 10 days prior to patient visit and organ specific lupus activity at the visit.”
Although they did not find a connection to systemic flares that impact all organs, they determined that certain environmental factors were strongly linked to flares of specific symptoms: As the temperature increased, so did the risk of rash, joint inflammation, kidney problems, serositis (inflammation of smooth tissue membranes), and hematologic problems such as anemia and low white blood cell count.
Windy conditions were also apt to lead to a spike in hematologic problems, plus an increase in neurological and pulmonary symptoms. Reports of joint inflammation and serositis increased in more humid weather, and an increase in air pollution (fine particulate matter) correlated to an uptick in rash, joint, serositis, and hematologic flares.
Although more research is needed to confirm the results, “these findings are the first step to vindicating the great majority of lupus patients who are convinced that their disease is influenced by weather changes and who inspired this research,” lead study author George Stojan, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Lupus Center, said in a press release.
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