Re-assessing My Triggers

After 10+ years with RA, I think I have a pretty good handle on my symptom triggers. You know, the things that wake the rheum beast from its already turbulent slumber? Yeah, you know.

Funny story:  I do not.

I recently moved (hey! I waited a full 4 sentences to mention it), and little did I know that my triggers would be turned upside down. Well, new ones didn’t pop up, but the ones I already have went into overdrive.

My triggers

Let me back up for a second and list the things that trigger the biggest RA response for me.

The cold

First, very cold temperatures instantly flare me up, especially in my knees and lower spine.

Temperature fluctuations

Second, rapid, drastic temperature changes are a surefire way to say “oh hey!” to my rheumatoid arthritis.

So, you might ask, “Monica, you know what your triggers are, do your best to avoid them!” Ah, if only.

I should preface all of this (halfway through the article) by saying I have previously lived in this state, so I already knew what to expect from the weather and other environmental factors.

East Coast vs. Midwest weather

Unfortunately, weather patterns have shifted a bit, and I didn’t realize how badly my newly autoimmune-infested body would react. On the East Coast, we get icy, wet winters. The cold seeps into your bones no matter how well you cover up. In the Midwest, you get cold. Just cold. It doesn’t seep into your soul and cinch around your heart, but it is much colder than we get on the East Coast. At the lowest, where I lived previously, we may get down to 10°F for a few days. In the Midwest, we get polar vortexes where the temperature can drop to -10°F at night (feels like -18°F, yay) and stay around 0°F during the day.

Now the loveliest thing about where I live is that it not only gets super cold, but the temperatures change drastically each day. On average, the temperature varies by 30° in just 24 hours. That does not happen on the East Coast. I blame the bare, flat plains with no vegetation to moderate the temperature.

Now, let’s circle back to those two main triggers. Do you notice a slight problem? I do. I moved to a place that is basically my trigger storm. I didn’t even try to avoid them; I just met them head-on.

Managing these new changes

I thought it was going to be okay if I bundled up well, but by the end of the day I was not able to do any stairs, and just walking across a flat floor was agony. I thought the occasional changing temps from out east were bad enough but little did I know that I would be fighting this ballooning temperature every day, even in the summer. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot I can do for that.

Right now, I am not managing that well. I’ve had to increase my steroid (Prednisone) dosage to get through the week, every week. But how long can I stay on a higher dose? I am not very keen on staying on it every day for the next six years.

I’m, hopefully, here for the long haul so I better figure out a way to handle these triggers. I did it once, and I’m sure I can do it again, even at the extremes. When (not, if! I must manifest positive energy) I figure out how to reduce their effect on me, I will be sure to update you!

What are your major triggers? Have you found a way to cope with them? LMK in the comments!

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