Predicting the unpredictable

Heh. Just when I think I’ve got my rheuma-dragon’s modus operandi down, he flibbers his tongue at me and changes it.

I’ve been checking the barometer whenever my hands start to hurt. Most of the time, the pain coincides with a fall in atmospheric pressure (most often associated with a low pressure area moving in over the state). Dark clouds and rain generally accompany a low, but this is California, so actual wet weather is rare. Occasionally, though, I flare as the barometer rises. Here, that always means clear, dry skies.

My conclusion? My rheuma-dragon gets snarly and starts biting at my joints whenever the barometer changes, though it happens more often with a fall.

Today I’m experiencing a particularly rotten flare in the knuckles of the first two fingers of my right hand. They’re swollen and hot. I got online and checked the barometric pressure for my area, expecting to see a fall or at least, a change. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing I can attribute the pain to something.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw that the barometric pressure was steady, neither rising nor falling. It has stayed that way all day.

I can almost hear my tricksy old dragon sniggering at me. That’s what I get, though, for trying to squash him into a neat, predictable box.

I should know better. There has never, from the beginning 24 years ago, been anything I could point to as a positive trigger for an RA flare. Not any particular food, weather or activity.

It was cold and rainy in Northern Germany, where I lived when I first had symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and where I was eventually diagnosed. I flared on wet days, but I flared when the weather was dry, too. I flared in all seasons, at all temperatures, or I didn’t. There was no rhyme or reason. When people (usually my parents or friends back in the States) asked if I thought I’d feel better living in a dryer climate, I said I doubted it, because the weather sure didn’t seem to make any difference.

The way RA affects me isn’t necessarily the way it will affect you. I can eat tomatoes without bringing on a flare, but maybe you can’t eat those or any other vegetable or root from the nightshade family. I might flare after I exert myself, but it also happens when I’m resting. I’ve felt terrific when I’ve been under a great deal of stress and felt awful when I was carefree—and vice versa. There has rarely been any warning of an oncoming flare. I never know if the next one will be mild or a killer. Hot baths, heat packs and paraffin baths are soothing on painful joints to me; ice packs are agonizing. Simply unbearable. For you, it might be the reverse. RA drugs that relieve your symptoms may not relieve mine, and you might have been diagnosed as a four-year-old while I wasn’t until I was 31. My joints might be gnarled, disfigured and stiff; I might have had my wrist fused or a knee replaced. You, on the other hand, might have had RA as long as I have but with little or no joint damage. It’s a maddening disease.

And in the end, it’s simply unpredictable.

4 thoughts on “Predicting the unpredictable

  1. Sorry you are flaring, but the bit about the barometer made me laugh so much. My husband calls me the ‘little barometer’ as I always start complaining just before the pressure changes – but I’m only about 75% reliable 🙂 I’ve just started flaring too – it’s rotten. I hope your trisky old dragon goes back to his cave soon and gives you some rest.


  2. Oh Wren, I fully agree with you. I haven’t had my RA for nearly as long as you but I can’t find ANY rhyme or reason behind flares. Not weather, not food, not stress, not activity. It just does its own thing. Really frustrating. I think it would be so much better for our mental health if we knew what caused flares, even if we didn’t have ways to control them. I think the not knowing is one of the worst things about this disease.


  3. Wren, I am sorry to hear you are not doing well. I totally know what you mean about the flares. I wish I could figure out the formula. My flares seem to have no rhyme or reason. I can do the same thing 5 times and 4 times have no flare and the fifth time – flare! Out of the blue a joint in my finger will get red and swollen for no reason I can figure out. If you can figure it all out, you will win some sort of prize! Feel better soon! Hugs to you.


  4. We are receiving a storm this weekend and yes…oh YES…I am feeling it. I have given up trying to decipher what puts me into a flare. Never in 13-14 years have I completely unraveled that mystery. I can say for sure that vacuming, cleaning the tub/shower, and extremet humidity puts me in a tither of pain. Hope you start to feel better. I have found that when random joints decide to scream for attention (spoiled little joints) that if I ice them it helps some. Just be sure not to over ice or cause yourself an ice burn.


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