February is Raynaud’s Awarness month.
What is Raynaud’s Syndrome?
Raynaud’s affects your blood circulation and occurs when the blood vessels in the hands and feet overreact to cold temperatures. The blood vessels are extra sensitive and become more narrow than normal, making the hands and feet very cold for a short length of time.
Often there is no known cause, however certain things can trigger an attack and the most common trigger is exposure to cold. Other triggers include emotional stress and things that affect the blood flow such as smoking and caffeine. Raynaud’s can sometimes be a sign of a more serious condition.
What are the symptoms?
During an attack of Raynaud’s, the blood vessels in the hands and feet tighten. This makes them feel cold and numb and then turn white or blue. It may also be difficult to move the affected area and you may also experience pins and needles. As blood flow returns and the fingers or toes warm up, they may turn red and begin to throb and hurt. Raynaud’s may also affect the nose or ears, lips or nipples.
An attack most often lasts only a few minutes to a few hours.
Primary and Secondary Raynaud’s
Raynaud’s can be classified as primary and secondary:
- Primary Raynaud’s generally occurs on its own and is generally mild and manageable and there are ways to help manage the symptoms.
- Secondary Raynaud’s occurs if you have Raynaud’s that is caused by another disease. This means your doctor can treat that disease and this may relieve your symptoms.
Tips to manage Raynaud’s
- Keep your body warm-wear warm clothes during cold weather especially on your hands and feet. Wear hand warmers, gloves and thick socks on chilly days. It is also important to keep your home warm.
- Wear a hat. You lose more body heat from your head than from any other part of your body.
- Don’t wear clothing that is too tight. Tight clothes can decrease or cut off circulation.
- Try to stay dry. Choose waterproof, breathable clothes and shoes. Being wet makes you more likely to become chilled.
- Don’t smoke- improve your circulation by stopping smoking.
- Reduce stress-stress and anxiety can trigger an attack. Take rests when you can to avoid getting too fatigued.
- Exercise helps improve circulation- try breathing exercises, yoga, walking, swimming (check the temperature of the water as a cold pool could trigger an attack), cycling, dancing and Pilates.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet and avoid alcohol and caffeine. Drink hot liquids as this helps maintain your internal body temperature, also, try eating a hot meal before going outside.
- Speak to your GP about your symptoms and how the condition affects your daily life. As well as your treatment options, also discuss any major lifestyle changes.
Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK