5 Health Conditions that are Worse in the Winter

Cold winter weather is bad enough on its own, but unfortunately it also aggravates these health conditions.

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Psoriasis

This chronic skin disease isn't easy to ignore: Its raised red patches covered with silvery scales itch (fittingly, "psoriasis" comes from the Greek for "itch"). Your self-image may suffer if it spreads. Psoriasis occurs when production of new skin cells outpaces the rate at which old ones are shed. As a result, live cells accumulate in raised areas covered with whitish flakes of immature skin cells (or plaques). Researchers say this rapid cell turnover relates to an inherited immune system disorder that can be activated by stress, cold weather, infection, or an abrasion.

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Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as SAD, is a type of depression that affects people in the winter months. Most of us feel energetic and cheerful when the sun is shining and subdued and less active in the winter months. But seasonal affective disorder is more severe than this. Some people are unable to hold down a job in winter because of lethargy, tiredness and poor concentration; relationships often break down because the sufferer becomes irritable and unloving. Some people cannot function at all in winter without treatment.

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Asthma

Asthma is a condition in which the lining of the airways supplying the lungs swells, restricting air flow and making it hard to breathe. During an asthma attack the airways become narrower; often sticky mucus or phlegm is produced. Sufferers have hypersensitive airways, which are almost always red and slightly inflamed. This means that their lungs are vulnerable to any of a wide range of irritants, including pollen, feathered and furred animals (particularly cats), aspirin and some other drugs, the droppings of house-dust mites, changes in temperature (for example, breathing in very cold air) and cigarette smoke. Some asthma attacks are triggered by non-environmental factors such as respiratory infections, stress, anxiety or exercise.

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Influenza

Influenza-most of us are well enough acquainted with it to call it by its nickname, flu-is caused by one of three strains of viruses. The first flu virus (Type A) was identified in the 1930s. We now know it as the most common, as well as the most serious. Type B viruses generally produce a milder version of the flu than Type A. Type C rarely causes illness in humans.

The flu season usually runs from November to March, sometimes into April. Upwards of 35 million North Americans catch the flu each year. Children are two to three times more likely to get it than adults.

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Arthritis

Arthritis literally means inflammation of a joint. The term comprises more than 100 different rheumatic diseases that cause pain, swelling, inflammation, and impaired movement in joints and connective tissue throughout the body. Most are chronic-once you develop arthritis, you have it for life-and your genes may add to your risk. But aggressive treatment can help you manage your arthritis and prevent pain, disability, and deformity. That's why the sooner the condition is diagnosed, the better. If you experience any joint or muscle pain, stiffness, or swelling that lasts more than a few weeks, see your doctor.

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), which afflicts about 1 in 10, or 3,000,000 Canadians. The condition develops as protective cartilage-the rubbery cushioning material that covers the ends of bones at the joint-gradually wears away. The joint's inner bone surfaces eventually are exposed and rub together, causing pain and damage to the joint.