Bradley Pfeifer, MD

Pfeifer

As winter approaches maybe you’re like me and have changed out your wardrobe from short sleeves and tank tops to long sleeves and cozy pullovers.

We’re in Wisconsin, the winter’s known to be tough right? Well, some parts of winter that can be dreary might have a medical backbone.

First, let’s talk about thyroid problems.

The thyroid’s a small gland in your neck that helps regulate your metabolism. If you feel like you’re always cold during the winter, there could be a medical component to that. Feeling cold or like you’re more sensitive to the cold, fatigue, constipation, weight gain, facial puffiness (edema), or weight gain can all be tied to the thyroid.

So, if you find yourself needing to cover up in more blankets, or put extra socks on your feet to keep them warm, and you’ve got some of the other symptoms above, consider coming into the clinic to get your thyroid checked with a blood test.

Another common medical condition like diabetes can cause individuals to feel colder than normal. That extra sugar in your bloodstream makes blood move slower and not as effectively as people without diabetes.

This means blood may not be flowing to your hands and feet as well, causing increased risk of feeling cold, getting frostbite, and/or infections due to frostbite. If you have diabetes and this happens to you, getting a better control of your blood sugars could be a great thing to pursue.

For our older friends, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can be aggravated by cold weather. Unfortunately, putting on more layers, warmer boots, and/or gloves does not always help these osteoarthritis pains.

Nonetheless, the number one prevention against arthritis getting worse down the road is to be active today! Cold weather may deter us from being active and getting exercise but try your best to keep some joint-friendly activity going, like using an elliptical or walking on a treadmill.

Lastly, I wanted to share some tips for protecting each other when we find ourselves out in the cold for a while. If you stay out in the cold for too long, we all know we can get frostbite on our fingers, toes, or any other body part exposed to the cold air. A medical condition we all want to avoid is hypothermia.

The early symptoms of hypothermia include: cold hands and feet, a puffy or swollen face, shivering (though in cases of severe hypothermia some people cannot shiver anymore), slowed speech and word slurring, feeling more sleepy or tired than usual, and pale skin. This may progress to your heart rate slowing, less ability to move your arms/legs voluntarily, having trouble walking or talking, and even losing consciousness. If any of these more severe symptoms occur, please consider seeking medical help.

Lastly, with winter coming, staying warm is important. If you or anyone you know has trouble paying heating bills, contact the National Energy Assistance Referral service at 1-866-674-6327.

Bradley Pfeifer, MD, is a resident physician at the Verona Clinic

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