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.