Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome accompanied by fatigue, headaches and sleep disturbances. It is estimated to affect 2% of the global population and is more often found in women. According to various studies, up to 92% of patients say that weather conditions such as temperature, atmospheric pressure, precipitation and sunshine duration aggravate their symptoms. However, research conducted by a Dutch team from Utrecht University reveals that this is not the case, at least when it comes to female patients.
The analysis of the data collected during the study showed that individual patients may exhibit sensitivity to certain weather changes. As a whole, however, the results support the theory that the weather does not affect fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, lead author Ercolie Bossema said. This is the first study to look at the effect of the weather on a large cohort of fibromyalgia patients and the findings do not suggest any association between specific patient characteristics and sensitivity to weather, Bossema added.
The research team set about investigating the matter with the help of 333 female fibromyalgia patients. Their mean age was 47 and their diagnosis had been established for almost two years. The study participants completed questionnaires about pain and fatigue symptoms for a period of 28 days. Data on air temperature, sunshine duration, precipitation, atmospheric pressure and relative humidity was obtained from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.
According to the authors of the study, future research should take into account more patient characteristics, for example personality traits and perceptions about chronic pain and the impact of weather on symptoms. This could provide an explanation for the individual differences in sensitivity.