Mar 16, 2018

The Potential Link between Seasonal Allergies and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Spring is in the air! Unfortunately, it’s full of allergens too. For those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), this can be a problem. Experts are beginning to notice a potential connection between seasonal allergies and rheumatoid arthritis. As we are in the thick of pollen season here in Southeastern North Carolina, this theory is something that needs to be explored. If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and seasonal allergies, it’s time to start researching and preparing for the upcoming spring season.

To understand the link between RA and seasonal allergies, it’s important that we thoroughly understand allergies themselves. “Allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to exposure to antigens such as pollen and mold from trees, grass, and weeds in the environment. Because your body senses these antigens as foreign and a threat, your body produces antibodies. The antibodies, part of your immune system that normally helps protect you from infections, travel to your cells. Your cells release chemicals called histamines, causing the mucous membranes in your eyes, nose, and sinuses to swell,” explains Mark Jacobson, MD, of Hinsdale, Illinois, an allergist/immunologist in private practice and a past president of the Illinois Society of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. While allergy symptoms aren’t dangerous they can be annoying and uncomfortable for the average person. For someone with rheumatoid arthritis, they can be miserable. People who suffer from RA and seasonal allergies can have conditions that range from mild to debilitating. So if there is a link between these two disorders, what is it?

According to Dr. Gary Rothbard, MD, while there is some evidence that suggests there may be a connection, there is not yet scientific proof. “While a link has been fairly well established between food allergies and autoimmune disease (e.g., gluten sensitivity and celiac disease), the same cannot be said for seasonal allergies, where the same connection is somewhat lacking in the literature.  Still, some work has been done that indeed supports the theory of seasonal allergies influencing and up-regulating the autoimmune response. Much more prominent are patient anecdotes and testimonials, which abound online and clearly indicate some sort of connection between the two,” explains Rothbard.

So while we aren’t completely sure of a connection yet, there are things RA patients can do to prepare for the season and aid in reducing the symptoms.

Minimizing Exposure.

  • While the fresh is great, keep the windows at home closed during allergy season.
  • Reduce early morning activity when allergen levels are at their highest.
  • Keep car windows closed while driving.
  • Watch the news and try to stay indoors on days when allergy levels are showing to be high.
  • If you are working in your yard, wear a mask over your nose and mouth to prevent as much inhalation as possible
  • Try not to hang laundry to dry outside- especially bed clothing such as sheets and pillowcases.
  • Shower at night before, thoroughly cleaning hair and hands.

Keep a journal.

If you feel you are suffering from an allergy and RA connection, keep a detailed journal. Describe your symptoms, times of day you feel worst, the things you eat, how you slept, and how you felt. This detailed descriptions can help you and your doctor decide on a treatment that puts you on the path to health.

Research medication.

There are great over the counter medications available to allergy suffers.  Everything from decongestants, antihistamines, and nasal sprays are accessible and easily purchased. However, if you are diagnosed with RA, always speak with your doctor before taking any new medications.

Consult you Rheumatologist.

If you have concerns about allergies and your rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, make an appointment to speak with your Rheumatologist right away. With your journal in hand and your background on file, you doctor may have different and more effective ideas for treating you.

If you have any questions or concerns about RA and how allergies may be affecting you, contact the experts Carolina Arthritis today. We have a team of skilled and compassionate physicians who are here to help you gain a better and healthier quality of life.