Weather conditions including temperature, sunshine, and precipitation have no overall impact on fibromyalgia symptoms in female patients, according to Dutch researchers.
However, the results suggest that individual patients may be sensitive to some changes in the weather, according to the study authors.
Fibromyalgia affects 2% of the world population with a greater prevalence among women. While its cause remains a mystery, previous studies have suggested patients have increased sensitivity to a range of stimuli including weather conditions.
Lead author Ercolie Bossema, from Utrecht University, said: “Previous research has investigated weather conditions and changes in fibromyalgia symptoms, but an association remains unclear.”
The new study involved 333 female patients with a mean age of 47 years who had a diagnosis of fibromyalgia for nearly two years.
Patients completed questions regarding their pain and fatigue symptoms over a 28-day period. Meanwhile, researchers obtained data on air temperature, sunshine duration, precipitation, atmospheric pressure and relative humidity.
In 10% of cases weather variables showed a significant but small effect on pain or fatigue symptoms.
In 20%, researchers found significant small differences between patients’ responses to weather, suggesting symptoms were differentially affected by some weather conditions, for example greater pain with either low or high atmospheric pressure.
The differences in individual symptom response to weather conditions did not appear to be associated with any demographic, functional or mental health status, nor seasonal or weather-related variations.
“Our analyses provide more evidence against, than in support of, the daily influence of weather on fibromyalgia pain and fatigue,” said Dr Bossema.
“This study is the first to investigate the impact of weather on fibromyalgia symptoms in a large cohort, and our findings show no association between specific fibromyalgia patient characteristics and weather sensitivity.”
The authors suggest future research should include more patient characteristics, such as personality traits, beliefs about chronic pain, and attitude regarding the influence of weather on symptoms, to explain individual differences in weather sensitivity and its impact on fibromyalgia pain and fatigue.