Winter is a delicate time for those suffering from rheumatic diseases. Professor Carlo Selmi, Responsible for Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at Humanitas, spoke about this topic at Obiettivo salute on Radio24.

“Rheumatic diseases are a large family of diseases that include both diseases of joint degeneration, such as arthrosis, and more inflammatory diseases, in which inflammation precedes joint damage. Inflammation, by definition, tends to improve with warmer temperatures or the use of the affected joint.

Many patients with rheumatoid arthritis and arthrosis say they are worse off when the weather is cold, especially at certain latitudes. Of course, the worsening during the winter is more common in patients with arthrosis, a more mechanical pain that can affect the knees, thumb and big toe and one that increases with the cold,” explained the specialist.


Involvement of the hands

“Hands are extremely important in rheumatology, cold temperature can cause, for example, the phenomenon of Raynaud, a constriction of the vessels that leads the fingers of hands or feet to become white first, then blue, then red, a frequent disorder especially in young women.

Moreover, the hands are often the site of both arthritis and arthrosis and a typical location of the initial manifestation of rheumatoid arthritis at the level of the joints of the hands. What distinguishes these two conditions is the type of pain: in the case of arthritis the pain improves with the use of the joint, while in the case of arthrosis it is the exact opposite – the use of the joint to write or to grasp something – will lead to an increase in pain,” said Professor Selmi.


Cold and back pain

Back pain can also be common during the winter season: “First of all, in most cases the message is reassuring, we all suffer from back pain at least once a year. What should be of most concern is a back pain that begins at a young age, lasts for more than three months and worsens significantly with rest (especially at night), but improves with walking and with the use of the back. In the case of back pain, in addition to the joint problem, the muscular component also contributes; in this sense the cold can have a negative influence with regard to muscle contractures that can be the basis of some back pain, especially in the cervical region.

The back pain usually passes in a few days; the use of anti-inflammatory drugs is rarely justified, it is better to use painkillers. If it lasts for more than a few days, it is advisable to consult your doctor”, advised Prof. Selmi.