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Could your cold hands and feet and aching joints be down to more than just the winter weather?
During December, in an attempt to brighten the dark days, Medichecks weekly winter health series will be focusing on a particular winter ailment and will be offering advice to try and make those winter blues a little easier. This week we will be focussing on poor circulation and joint pain and why an increasing number of people experience these symptoms during the colder months.
As the temperature drops, many people blame their numb fingers and toes on ‘poor circulation’. When the body is cold, blood is drawn away from the extremities to conserve warmth for the internal organs. It is perfectly normal to experience cold fingers and toes on occasion or when you are cold, but when the hands and feet are constantly cold and can’t be warmed by wearing an extra jumper or having a hot drink, this is not normal and could be a sign of circulation problems.
Raynaud’s disease is a common condition affecting around 20% of adults in the UK where blood vessels in the feet and hands are overly sensitive to slight temperature changes and sometimes stress, causing them spasm which restricts blood flow. It is advised those with Raynaud’s wear gloves and warm footwear in cold weather, exercise regularly and quit smoking to improve blood circulation.
Poor circulation can be caused by an underlying health condition. Diabetes can lead to a build-up of plaque in the blood vessels which restricts blood flow, leading to poor circulation. High cholesterol levels can also damage arterial walls, reducing blood circulation. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Hypothyroidism can cause unexpected weight gain, fatigue and sensitivity to the cold.
Joint pain can occur at any time of the year, but there is increasing evidence that the cold weather can worsen symptoms of rheumatic diseases such as arthritis. Cold air brings lower atmospheric air pressure and the cooler the air is, the denser it becomes, causing the atmospheric pressure to rise. Many believe that lower air pressure causes the soft tissue around joints to expand, making the muscles prone to spasms and cramps. During the cold weather, it is easy to hide away in the warm wrapped up in a blanket, but exercise is vital to keep joints subtle.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) occurs when the immune system attacks the joints in the body leading to high levels of inflammation. The reason why this happens is still not fully understood. C-Reactive Protein, or CRP, is a protein produced in the liver that is present during episodes of inflammation or infection. Measuring CRP levels in the blood allows you to see if RA could be the cause of your joint pain and to monitor the degree of inflammation over time. Medichecks CRP test allows you to check from the comfort of your own home.
If you are experiencing poor circulation and/or joint pain this winter and wish to see if there is more to blame than the cold weather, then contact our customer service team today on 03450 600 600, and we will be happy to help you investigate your symptoms further.