The decrease in temperatures in winter not only affects our mood or becomes an imminent danger for people with respiratory conditions. There are other diseases whose symptoms are exacerbated by coldso it is necessary to take knowledge and the necessary safeguards to face this time of year, especially when our health system is collapsed facing the coronavirus pandemic.
When a person faces cold, their heart must work harder to maintain body temperature and keep pushing blood through the body; this causes the constriction of the blood vessels, concentrating the heat in the central area of the body where the vital organs are. Nevertheless, The reasons why the cold affects these chronic pathologies are much more complex and multifactorial.
“However, we know that there are pathologies and groups that are affected more by the cold. Diabetes, hypertension or arthritis, in addition to respiratory diseases, are the ones that can see their symptoms worsen or generate greater complications in this period. Likewise, the elderly, infants and patients with polypharmacy (those who consume a large number of medications) as well as the chronically ill, are the groups at greatest risk,” he says. Paula Molinapharmaceutical chemist Smoked Pharmacies.
In the case of diabetes, according to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (USA), when the temperature drops, the body needs to produce more heat, obtaining it from the adipose tissue generated by the amount of sugar or glucose that remains in the body. «In this sense, the body will seek to increase glucose to reach or maintain an adequate temperature, directly affecting the metabolism of a diabetic patient,» says Molina.
Other pathologies whose symptoms are exacerbated at this time is rheumatoid arthritis
Likewise, in hypertensive patients, the body resorts to vasoconstriction, narrowing the blood vessels to increase pressure and control internal temperature. According to Mayo Clinicthis reaction can decompensate patients suffering from this condition, generating hypertensive crises that, if not treated in time, can be fatal.
According to the doctor, «in the case of patients with cardiac pathologies this is also a concern, since this increase in pressure can compromise the proper functioning of the heart. In fact, specialists point out that exposure to low temperatures can trigger ischemic episodes –such as myocardial infarctions, insufficiencies or arrhythmias”.
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Other pathologies whose symptoms become more acute at this time is rheumatoid arthritis. Cold is an important stimulus for the body, inducing muscle contractions as a defense mechanism. “This leads to an aggravation of joint aches and pains, including increased morning stiffness. For these patients, winter is a complex stage, especially those who do not respond to conventional treatment with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, which can reach up to 20% of the total, according to MINSAL, «adds the pharmacist.
The groups most vulnerable to being affected by low temperatures should also be considered. In the case of infants, their neurovascular response system is not fully developed, so greater care must be taken to maintain environments with an adequate temperature. Similarly, defense mechanisms in older adults are weakenedso they do not have an adequate adaptive response to low temperatures.
In addition, in this last group there are usually more cases of chronic diseases, generating a polypharmacy, «being able to enhance the symptoms linked to cold by interfering with the adaptive mechanisms of the body, as is the case of vasodilators, central nervous system depressants or muscle relaxants; to say nothing of the potential risks of minimizing the pharmaceutical effects of some drugs on the bodyMolina concludes.
In this scenario, the cold presents itself as a real threat if we consider that more than half of Chileans (about 9.7 million people) live with two or more chronic diseases, according to the Department of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Health. For this reason, for the pharmacist “it is important that these patients take the necessary measures to face this time, consulting their doctor about the need to adjust doses or daily routines. Especially in times of pandemic, we must commit to keeping these types of patients as controlled and stable as possible.”