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Is it possible to have a heart attack in winter? Yes. Not only heart attack but several conditions like cough, cold, influenza, and pneumonia can get worse during winters. Similarly, joint pains and arthritis can aggravate in this season.
Blood vessels consist of arteries and arterioles that are responsible for carrying blood away from the heart. They pulsate and carry oxygen rich blood while veins are responsible for bringing back blood to the heart. Capillaries are minute vessels that connect the artery and veins in any organ.
What are the Conditions that can occur in winter?
Several vascular disorders are seasonal therefore it is important to know the perils before the condition worsens. During winters, blood vessels especially the arteries tend to go in spasm and this is the genesis of vascular disorders.
It is a type of hypersensitivity that gets exaggerated in cold. The arterioles and capillaries tend to go in severe spasm, which often gets prolonged. The fingers and toes become painful and red and itching becomes pronounced. This can be prevented by preventing exposure to cold- wearing gloves, mittens or two pair of socks. The hands or feet should be immersed in lukewarm water twice a day. In case the symptoms are severe, consult a vascular surgeon immediately. There are medicines available that can improve peripheral circulation.
In this the body literally freezes and gets damaged- sometimes irreversibly. The fingers and toes are more commonly affected; rarely the tip of nose or the ear lobes. It is obvious that freezing of a body part is painful but if ignored, it can become insensate and organs can get damaged beyond repair. There are three grades of frostbite; grade III is irreversible. It is recommended that you practice slow rewarming of the body part under medical supervision.
Hypothermia or low body temperature is a serious condition and, if severe, can be fatal. This is the general lowering of body temperature (from 37 degree Celsius). Body temperature lower than 32 degrees is incompatible. This is again due to unchecked exposure to cold. This is also a social problem so the government usually comes up with “night shelter” for destitute and homeless. Prevention is to keep oneself covered in warm clothes especially during the night.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Chronic (slow) blockage of peripheral blood vessels leads to pain in legs while walking, continuous pain in feet, non-healing ulcers (wounds) over feet, or blackening of a digit (gangrene). Since blood vessels tend to go into spasm in cold weather, Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) symptoms often worsen in winters. Vascular consultation is recommended if symptoms worsen.
Varicose Veins and Venous Thrombosis
Varicose veins are dilated, tortuous, prominent veins in the legs, which often tend to worsen in winters. Thrombosis (clotting of blood) in the deeper veins of the leg (Deep Vein Thrombosis — DVT) is a serious medical condition; it can even result in death if the clot gets detached and goes to the lung (pulmonary embolism). The affected leg becomes swollen and painful. Medical attention should be sought urgently; treatment is administered by blood thinners, usually prescribed for six months. Hospitalisation is often required for the initial treatment.