While science and anecdotal evidence have shown the benefits of sunlight for alleviating skin eruptions associated with psoriasis, experts are cautious about saying the same is true for symptoms of psoriatic arthritis.

Sunlight stimulates the body’s production of vitamin D, a crucial nutrient in the healthy functioning of skin and bones.

Although there is a dearth of research on the effects of sun and water on psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis — so-called climate therapy — this hasn’t stopped the growth of spas throughout the world catering to patients with these and similar conditions. Spa facilities in the Canary Islands, on the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, and at numerous other locations cater to those with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.

Physicians and researchers generally stop short of recommending a permanent move to alleviate psoriasis symptoms, but the National Psoriasis Foundation does concede that a “warm, stable climate” might bring relief.

How Does Climate Help?

While spa visitors may report relief of their symptoms, the warm sun and ocean breezes do little to address the underlying disease process of psoriatic arthritis, cautions Yusuf Yazici, MD, a rheumatologist at the New York University Center for Musculoskeletal Care in New York City.

“Spas, if they work, are for tendinitis types of [conditions]. Psoriatic arthritis is a very serious immune system disease. Just as going to a spa doesn’t help diabetes, it doesn’t really help psoriatic arthritis,” Dr. Yazici says.

Arthritis patients may be tempted to move to a southern climate. But stress reduction, not improvement in arthritis per se, should be the goal of such a move, says Patience White, MD, a rheumatologist at George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates in Washington, DC.

“I’m not familiar with any good controlled trial that shows that a warm climate, or any climate for that matter, will affect the natural progression of the disease," says Dr. White. "Go south if you think your whole quality of life would be better, but you’ve still got to go to your doctor and get treated."

Lifestyle Changes

Even if you don't seek out a better climate, you can help alleviate psoriatic arthritis symptoms by watching your diet, maintaining your weight to avoid stressing arthritic joints, and getting regular moderate exercise, Yazici says. These lifestyle changes are particularly important because psoriasis may encourage fat tissue to release cytokines, which are small molecules that exacerbate arthritis inflammation.

Though climate therapy for psoriatic arthritis is not a medically proven treatment, it may benefit you in other social and emotional ways. Check with your doctor, and make sure you take precautions to protect yourself from too much sun exposure.