Many people who suffer from fibromyalgia say changes in the weather can affect their level of pain and fatigue. But according to a new study by Dutch researchers, weather conditions such as temperature, sunshine, and precipitation have no impact on fibromyalgia symptoms in female patients.
“Our analyses provide more evidence against, than in support of, the daily influence of weather on fibromyalgia pain and fatigue,” said lead author Ercolie Bossema, PhD, from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “This study is the first to investigate the impact of weather on fibromyalgia symptoms in a large cohort, and our findings show no association between specific fibromyalgia patient characteristics and weather sensitivity.”
About 2% of the world’s population suffers from fibromyalgia, which is far more prevalent in women than in men. Symptoms include widespread pain, fatigue, headaches, and sleep and mood disturbances. Fibromyalgia patients are often sensitive to a range of stimuli and up to 92% say weather conditions exacerbate their symptoms.
To study the impact of weather on pain and fatigue, the Dutch researchers studied 333 female fibromyalgia patients, who had an average age of 47 years. The women kept a daily diary of their pain, fatigue, depression and sleeping patterns over a 28-day period. The patient reports were then compared to data on temperature, sunshine duration, precipitation, atmospheric pressure, and relative humidity for those 28 days obtained from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.
The researchers found only a few “significant influences” of temperature, sunshine, and humidity on some patients’ pain and fatigue. But the number of patients affected was so small and inconsistent that researchers discounted the results.
“However, these findings do not rule out the possibility that weather-symptom relations may exist for individual patients. Some patients may be more sensitive to weather or weather changes than other patients, and also some patients may be affected positively and other patients negatively by specific weather conditions,” the study concluded.
The authors speculated that physically active and less depressed patients may spend more time outdoors and are consequently more exposed to the weather.
A fibromyalgia expert told National Pain Report there could be other weather-related factors that the Dutch study didn’t consider.
“Though research says weather has no effect on fibromyalgia symptoms, patients frequently do not agree,” said Celeste Cooper, RN, a fibromyalgia sufferer and patient advocate.
“This could be because of the conditions that co-occur with fibromylagia. For instance, migraine headaches and arthritic conditions are aggravated by weather changes and they can overlap. So when one of the co-occurring conditions is out of control, it can have an effect on fibromyalgia symptoms.”
“The answer from me is that both the research and the patient are right. It is always about identifying any comorbid factors,” said Cooper.
The Dutch study is being published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, the official journal of the American College of Rheumatology and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals.