The first thing you have to understand about winter flares is that science doesn’t tell us much.
The second thing is that just because we don’t understand the connection between winter and flares doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
As of December 2018, on Citizen Pscientist, our global, patient-powered research platform, 3,202 people with psoriasis ranked the seasons from worst to best. Four out of 10 chose winter as the season that most aggravates their disease. Not everyone felt the effects of the season: 1,354 people, about 40 percent, reported, “I don’t notice a difference.”
“There’s not a lot of scientific evidence for winter flares. The evidence is mostly anecdotal,” says Abby Van Voorhees, M.D., chair of NPF’s medical board and a dermatologist at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia.
“If you ask most derms, they’ll tell you that a great many of their patients flare in the winter,” Van Voorhees says. “Our theory is that a diminished amount of ultraviolet light is behind the flares. This is why artificial UV light is hugely helpful. But we still don’t have a true understanding of how this works.”
In that Citizen Pscientist survey, 1,389 people with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) also weighed in on the seasons. Three out of 10 reported winter as their least-favorite season. Summer consistently trailed, this time even further behind at 2 percent. In this group, 828 people didn’t notice a difference.
“Weather can be a trigger,” says Arthur Mandelin, M.D., Ph.D., an NPF medical board member and a rheumatologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois.
“Some people are weather-responsive, some aren’t. You just can’t make a blanket statement about weather and psoriatic arthritis.”