Exposure to sunlight may be a benefit to people with rheumatoid arthritis

While overexposure to sunlight can be hazardous to skin health, it may be a plus for older women at risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers from the Harvard University School of Public Health believe ultraviolet B rays, or UV-B, in sunlight may have a beneficial effect regarding RA.

The study team considered long-term data on 235,000 participants included in the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study from 1976 to 2009. The ages of the participants ranged from 25 to 55.

By the end of the study period, 1,314 women had developed RA. Older women who had regular exposure to UV-B during the course of the study were 21 percent less likely to develop the disease than others with less sunlight exposure. The findings were published in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

One factor that may have influenced the outcome was the likelihood of younger women limiting their sun exposure because of greater evidence found in recent years regarding the link between skin cancer and ultraviolet rays.

Cause still unknown
Although researchers did not consider how UV-B exposure reduces the risk of RA, it may be linked to the skin’s natural production of vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. To maximize bone health, the dietary supplement Dr. Pinkus’ Sublingual Vitamin D-3 from Dr. Newton’s Naturalspromotes healthy bone density with 5,000 units of one of the most effective and safe forms of vitamin D called cholecalciferol. The formula may also enhance memory and boost the immune system.

The cause of RA, a long-term autoimmune disease that inflames joints and surrounding tissue, remains unknown, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Although it may occur at any age, it is more likely to strike people in middle age and is more common in women than in men.

The disease typically affects joints equally on both sides of the body with wrists, fingers, knees, feet and ankles most susceptible. Symptoms include joints that feel warm, tender and stiff, particularly in the morning. Over time, people may lose their range of motion because of the stiffness.

Unlike osteoarthritis, in which stiffness and joint pain are the major symptoms, people who suffer from RA are also likely to feel some chest pain when they take a breath, experience eye burning and itching, dry mouth and eyes, numbness, tingling or burning in their hands or feet and have difficulty sleeping. In the most severe case, nodules may form under the skin.