Understand why vascular disease can get worse in winter

Winter has a close relationship with our vascular system. Blood circulation helps maintain our body temperature. To help with this maintenance, on colder days there is a narrowing of the vessels, called vasoconstriction, which affects blood flow to the extremities of the body. “In patients with compromised vascular health, certain complications may occur,” notes Dr. Paulo Vinicius Baggio, angiologist and vascular surgeon at São Vicente Curitiba Hospital.

People with obstructive peripheral artery disease, caused by fatty deposits in the arteries, are among those who need to be careful. “Patients with this disease have reduced arterial blood flow due to arterial narrowing. With winter and vasoconstriction, which further reduces blood circulation, the condition worsens”, emphasizes Dr. Paolo Vinicius Baggio.

The main symptom is called intermittent claudication, when pain occurs in the legs when walking, which can even cause the person to limp. “With the aggravation, the pain occurs at rest, without the person walking, or trophic lesions, sores on the tip of the toes or the back of the foot appear. In these cases, it is essential to consult an angiologist for appropriate treatment”, he guides.

Low temperatures further promote the emergence of Raynaud’s phenomenon, a term used for cases where there is another associated disease (the most common is scleroderma), or also called Raynaud’s disease, a term designating an unknown cause. The person has reduced blood flow to the extremities of the hands and feet, leading to ischemia, which is a lack of blood. “First the extremities turn pale (white), then cyanotic (purple) and finally red (vasodilated), usually precipitated by the cold itself, but aggravated by contact with cold water or frozen food” , explains Dr. Paulo Vínicus Baggio, recalling that the best treatment is to wear gloves, not to use cold water and to avoid any other situation that cools the extremities of the hands and feet. “If there is still no improvement, you should consult an angiologist,” he recommends.

Another common problem in winter is Livedo Reticularis, a condition characterized by the appearance of web-like lines, especially on the thighs. However, Dr. Paulo Vinicius Baixo explains that there is no need to worry. “It is a very common vasomotor phenomenon in medical consultations, but it does not require treatment, because it is simply a vasomotor change in the skin.”

Prevention of vascular diseases

At any time of the year, vascular disease can manifest itself, so it is important to be aware of the signs. “Cold feet and hands, pain, fatigue and swelling of the legs, dry skin, tingling sensation, varicose veins and swollen ankles are the main symptoms linked to vascular diseases”, warns Dr. Paolo Vinicius Baggio.

To help prevent, the vascular surgeon specifies that it is essential to avoid smoking, to have a healthier diet, to practice physical exercises and to control blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol levels.

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