Every fall, when the weather hit 60 degrees or colder, my dad would start wearing winter gloves. If he didn’t, the ends of his fingers changed colors, turned white or blue, and felt like ice. His fingers became so cold that he had trouble moving them. My dad had Raynaud’s Phenomenon (also called Raynaud’s Syndrome). Those living with Raynaud’s disease know it can cause pain and discomfort, if not managed properly. Before we look at a few tips to help manage your Raynaud’s, let’s take a look at what causes it.
What Is Raynaud’s
Raynaud’s is a condition in which the blood vessels in your fingers and toes (and for some people, even the tip of the nose), constrict in response to cold, stress, and some medications. The narrowing of the vessels reduces the blood supply, which is why your skin changes color. Some people also experience numbness, pain, and a tingling, likened to a pins-and-needles sensation. Once the blood supply returns, the skin reddens, which can also cause pain.
Raynaud’s disease affects more women than men and the symptoms may occur in members of the same family. There are two main types —primary and secondary. In primary Raynaud’s the cause isn’t known. The primary type is more common and tends to be less severe than Secondary. Secondary Raynaud’s is caused by an underlying disease, condition, or other factor, such as rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. This type is often called Raynaud’s Phenomenon.
Tips to help manage your Raynaud’s include:
- Control your body temperature whenever possible. Wherever possible, turn air conditioning down, or at the least, turn off blowers so the air doesn’t blow directly on you. Keep a lightweight jacket or thin blanket handy to cover up when you can’t avoid air conditioning.
- When outdoors, keep your body from getting too cold by wearing a coat, hat and warm clothing. (My dad resorted to wearing a hat indoors because it worked.) Feathery down coats keep your core warm, won’t weigh you down and allow better movement for better circulation. Wear a scarf, warm socks (with warmers or battery-operated heaters if necessary).
- For your hands, mittens are preferable to gloves as your fingers help spread the warmth and allow more movement.
- Skin protection gloves, like Protexgloves, keep your hands warm but not sweaty. The soft, tight knit protects hands from cold drafts and makes touching cold surfaces or objects more comfortable. These gloves offer great dexterity so you can turn the pages of a book, hold a pen or even scissors.
- If you begin feeling cold, moving around is helpful. Wiggle, shake, massage, or flap your arms and hands to increase circulation.
- Since normal circulation is an issue, try to avoid wearing tight-fitting jewelry.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol and quit smoking.
- Some medications, like over-the-counter cold and allergy pills, and diet aids can trigger symptoms. Migraine medicines that contain ergotamine, and birth control pills, can affect blood flow.
- Exercise increases blood flow and helps keeps you warm. Making regular activity a part of your life is helpful.
- Stress can also play a role in triggering symptoms. Learn helpful means of handling your stress– yoga, meditation, singing, reading, are all possibilities. Experiment to learn what works best for you.
When lifestyle changes don’t seem to help manage your Raynaud’s, talk to your health care provider. She or he may suggest a medication that increases blood flow, such as a calcium channel blocker (which is usually prescribed to control blood pressure). Botox® injections can also be effective since the botulinum toxin relaxes the muscles around constricted blood vessels, improving blood flow.
For more information, visit the Raynaud’s Association website http://www.raynauds.org/Like what you’ve read? Click here to subscribe to the blog!
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