Many people who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) say that the weather affects their arthritis symptoms. Cold and damp weather has been said to aggravate RA and make disease activity worse, although research on the subject isn’t conclusive.
A region’s weather may influence whether you choose to live there if you have rheumatoid arthritis, but it may not be the only reason to relocate. Here are other criteria to consider, as well as what some research has said about the best places to live when you have RA.
Besides weather, access to affordable health care and healthy lifestyle habits are also important considerations for a good quality of life with RA. The American College of Rheumatology has put together a "Rheumatic Disease Report Card” that assesses how supportive states are for people with arthritis and rheumatic disease.
The criteria the states were judged on were:
It’s recommended that people living with RA get daily exercise balanced with rest. If you live in a location that isn’t particularly walkable, it might make it easier to get that exercise if you live elsewhere.
States were scored on several subfactors, such as the number of people per rheumatologist.
Only one state managed to earn the coveted “A” grade from the American College of Rheumatology: Maryland. Maryland is also home to the top-rated hospital in the United States for rheumatology, Johns Hopkins, located in Baltimore.
Other states that received good ratings include:
South Carolina, Wyoming, Mississippi, Alabama, and Oklahoma scored the lowest.
Many myRAteam members have reported on the best places to live for RA and what factors make a difference. Dry heat helped several members adjust. “I moved from Michigan to Phoenix, Arizona, and love the weather. Less humidity has been great! Still have issues when it rains, but it is a lot better,” said one member. Another agreed: “For me, I’ve found that in dry heat areas — Las Vegas, Nevada; Southwest states — a lot of stuff for me is better overall, especially with the flare-ups!”
Does the weather aggravate RA? People with RA often point to cold, damp weather and changes in barometric pressure as the cause of RA flares. “Any time [barometric pressure is] falling, I go into a flare. If it’s steady, I can hopefully count on a good day,” one member shared.
A review of the scientific literature in 2016 found an association between the cold and worsening of joint pain and stiffness, as well as falling barometric pressure and joint symptoms — although the association was weak.
Some association between joint stiffness and humidity and increased wind has been found. Said one member, “I’ve also considered moving to a warmer climate, but humidity is a killer for me.” Another mentioned, “When I go to the cooler weather or humidity, I really know I have RA.” And yet another shared, “Humidity is a big no-no for me.” For people who struggle with humidity and flares, a member has this advice: “Yes, move to a drier climate; it has helped me, although my RA is not cured.”
There is also some association between RA and low vitamin D levels. Because the best source of vitamin D may be from the sun, a sunnier climate may be a better living space than one where most days are cloudy or overcast. However, some members have reported that their flares are worse on sunny days.
Where you live can significantly impact your daily quality of life, whether it's the weather triggering your symptoms or the health care available to you as you navigate life with RA. Finding an arthritis center or a health care facility that will help with your treatment plan of anti-inflammatories is a high priority. The Arthritis Foundation's questions to ask a doctor can help you find the best provider to treat your inflammatory arthritis, if you move to a new area.
Ultimately, deciding where to live is a complex decision that includes many factors to support your best health. One myRAteam member reported that moving made a significant difference in their health, noting, “My doctor and I believe the combination of lower humidity and higher elevation made the difference for me.” For others, their state’s access and affordability of care may prove more important in making life with RA easier.
On myRAteam, more than 145,000 members come together in a support group atmosphere to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with RA.
Where do you live, and how does it affect your life with RA? Comment below or start a new conversation on myRAteam.