WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) – While seasonal rheumatic symptoms are commonly reported across all rheumatic disorders, they do not correlate with measured clinical scores and therefore do not reflect reality, according to study findings reported in the August issue of The Journal of Rheumatic Diseases. "In addition," note the researchers, "regardless of seasonal complaints, measured pain and global severity scores are not worse in winter."
Dr. Frederick Wolfe, of the Arthritis Research Center Foundation in Wichita, Kansas, and colleagues examined longitudinal data to evaluate the nature of seasonal symptoms, their prevalence, and differences among rheumatic diseases.
Fourteen hundred twenty-four patients with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia completed the Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire. The researchers evaluated clinical status and compared reported symptoms with actual seasonal differences over a period of up to 24 years.
The investigators note that about 50% of patients reported that seasonal changes exacerbated rheumatic symptoms, including pain, global severity, and fatigue. They add that diagnosis and seasonal affective disorder symptoms did not affect the presence of seasonal symptoms. "Symptoms were less common in older patients and in men," they write.
Patients with fibromyalgia and/or seasonal affective disorder symptoms also had an increased number of rheumatic symptoms, according to the report. The severity of allied factors, including depression, anxiety, global severity, and the number of months with seasonal symptoms, was increased in these patients.
"Bimodal patterns of seasonality were identified for global severity, joint pain, fatigue, and socialization," the investigators report. "Seasonal symptoms differed in the degree at which they were dispersed around the 12-month circle."
Dr. Wolfe's group found that pain was slightly increased in the summer and global severity was not related to season at all when they analyzed measurements over a19-year period. "Even when patients who specifically reported worse symptoms in winter and best symptoms in summer were examined, no effect of season could be found," they conclude.
J Rheumatol 2001;28:1900-1909.