Physical Effects of Barometric Pressure Changes

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Changes in barometric pressure can affect our bodies
Changes in barometric pressure can affect our bodies (Image: barometer image by Peter Baxter from Fotolia.com)

Changing weather conditions cause the air pressure, or barometric pressure, to change. Changes in barometric pressure can trigger certain effects in the body, such as headaches, aches and pains, and allergy symptoms. Sufferers of these maladies can tell you that when the weather changes, their discomfort level can rise.

Migraines

Changes in the local barometric pressure can trigger migraine headaches for migraine sufferers, or migraineurs. Studies have been conducted that indicate a direct correlation between air pressure changes and migraine headache frequency. A group of researchers headed by Dr. Galina Mindlin of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia conducted one such study and found that the frequency of migraines increased when the barometric pressure was on the rise.

On the other hand, the Canadian Climate Center conducted a similar study in 1981 that indicated that migraineurs experienced headache episodes when barometric pressure was falling. The Center cited other weather conditions as causes in conjunction with the falling barometric pressure, such as rising wind and humidity and rapid temperature changes

Although the results of these kinds of studies conflict, we can draw the conclusion that migraines can be triggered by some kind of change in barometric pressure, whether up or down, coupled with other weather changes.

Arthritis

Almost every one of us has heard anecdotal evidence from someone with arthritis who claims that changes in the weather cause his arthritis pain to flare up. Results of a study by Dr. Timothy E. McAlindon of Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston now provides scientific evidence that weather can indeed affect the level of pain experienced by arthritis sufferers.

Barometric pressure changes were associated with increases in knee pain in the study data. Although he is careful to state that weather has not yet been proved to cause the pain, Dr. Sam Lim, a rheumatologist at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, concedes a direct correlation between weather changes that include barometric pressure changes and increased arthritis pain.

Allergy Symptoms (Vasomotor Rhinitis)

Some people suffer from allergy-like symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and congestion as if they were allergic to pollen or some other substance without actually being allergic to anything. This condition is known as vasomotor rhinitis.

According to Dr. Patricia Wheeler and Dr. Stephen Wheeler of the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky, patients cannot tell the difference between real allergies and vasomotor rhinitis unless they are tested. Although it is unclear what actually causes these symptoms, they can be exacerbated by, among other factors, changes in barometric pressure.

Treatment for vasomotor rhinitis is usually topical, with patients using nose sprays and ointments in the nasal passages.

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