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Raynaud's Phenomenon and How to Manage It

Updated on February 19, 2020
louiseelcross profile image

Here an explanation of Primary and Secondary Raynaud's Phenomena. Symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, management and my experience of Raynaud's

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What is Raynaud's Phenomenon?

A condition first described by Maurice Raynaud in 1862.

Raynaud's Phenomena, also known as Raynaud's syndrome or Raynaud's disease, affects the blood circulation and causes pain in areas of the body affected. It is a condition that leaves you feeling very cold as if chilled to the bone.

It is a condition where the blood vessels in hands, fingers, feet and toes, nose and ears become narrow and very sensitive to the slightest change in air temperature, or through times of stress.

Raynaud's flare's are marked by vasospasm's, which are a sudden constriction and narrowing of the blood vessels triggered by cold or stress. During a flare it becomes harder to warm up the affected area and to keep warm.

Sometimes there is colour change to the skin of the hands or fingers during a Rayanaud's attack, but not always, from white, to blue, to red.

Raynaud's phenomenon is a common condition thought to affect up to ten million in the UK. Many of which only experience mild symptoms that they manage without medical help. Those living in colder climates, especially women, tend to be more affected with Raynaud's.

Keeping warm can often keep symptoms at bay. But for some keeping warm is not so easy. People can experience an inability to get warm once the skin has felt the temperature change.



Primary Or Secondary Raynaud's?

Primary Raynaud's symptoms are usually mild and manageable and there are ways that can help to manage this condition. This form of Raynaud's is caused by disruptions in the nervous system that controls the blood vessels. It is not clear what causes these disruptions

Those with primary Raynaud's do not usually have other complications or underlying conditions. Only a few with Primary Raynaud's will eventually develop a related condition.

Secondary Raynaud's is often as a result of an autoimmune condition such as Lupus, MS, Rheuamatoid arthritis or Scleroderma.

Causes of Secondary Raynaud's can also include Atherosclerosis which is a disease of the arteries, or Buerger's syndrome, a condition of inflamed blood vessels in the hands and feet. This disease is aggravated by cigarette smoking.

More investigations are needed if Secondary Raynaud's is suspected.

It is time to seek help from the doctor when life in impacted as a result of pain or inability to stay warm.


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Symptoms Of Raynaud's

  • Feeling very cold, pain and freezing tingling sensations in extremities
  • Numbness and pins and needles sensations
  • Difficulty moving the affected area
  • Throbbing, burning and stinging pain on warming up
  • Risk of digital ulcers
  • Severe cases risk of gangrene

Diagnosis Of Raynaud's Phenomena

The doctor might perform a Nail Fold Capillaroscopy where the skin can be checked under a microscope to see if there are deformities of the tiny blood vessels that could be affected.

Blood tests ordered by your doctor will rule out any conditions linked to Secondary Raynaud's.

Treatments For Raynaud's

Calcium channel blockers which work by relaxing and opening up small blood vessels.

Vasodilators that dilate veins to allow blood to flow freely

Sympathectomy, this is surgery to remove nerves from the blood vessels. This can reduce the severity of an attack of Raynaud's.

Chemical Injections. Doctors can inject a local anaesthetic or a type of Botox which is used to block sympathetic nerves in affected hands or feet. This form of procedure often needs repeating if symptoms return.



My Experience Of Raynaud's Phenomena

I was in my late 20's when I first experienced Raynaud's as a problem. I was finding it more difficult to get warmed up if ever I got cold. I felt like I was frozen to the bone.

Only a hot bath or shower helps when I get cold. Getting wrapped up in a warm blanket does not help to get me warm until I have warmed up in a bath or shower. when my hands get cold like they do, I have to hold them under a warm tap until they warm up or my hands are useless to use.


Self-Management Of Raynaud's Phenomena

  • Keep your home warm and free from draughts.
  • Wear layers of warm clothes indoors during cold weather – especially gloves and socks on your hands and feet.
  • Exercise regularly – this helps improve circulation. A walk is perfect for circulation and for warming up the body. If it is too cold to exercise outside try a YouTube free exercise routine. Walking indoors is an excellent exercise and helps to lift the mood..
  • Try breathing exercises or yoga to help you relax.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and eat regular warm meals.
  • Stop smoking because chemicals in cigarettes can cause blood vessel damage and constrict veins.
  • When you do get cold, warm up as quickly as you can by running warm water over yourself or take a warm bath or shower.
  • Avoid over the counter drugs especially cold treatment drugs that can aggravate Raynaud's.
  • Use an electric blanket throw to keep you warm during the day.
  • Live in a warmer climate if it is possible.
  • Use a vibration plate.

Electric Blanket And Throw

I keep an electric blanket on day and night during winter because once I get cold I cannot use my hands. I spent a lot of time in my bed trying to stay warm on an electric blanket until I found an electric throw that I keep in my living room.

I use an electric warm blanket during the day. It warms up quickly and warms me up when I need it. It is soft and machine washable and I would definitely recommend one for anyone who feels the cold. I have mine folded, behind a cushion on the sofa ready for when I need it. It also has an easy to use controller which comes in handy when your hands are frozen.

I struggle to cope with temperature drop below 19 C degrees as I start getting symptoms of extremely cold and painful hands and feet and terrible sensations. It is a distressing icy prickle sensation in the backs of my hands and feels like thousands of tiny icicles hitting the skin on the backs of my hands. My hands and fingers become stiff and painful to use.

The tips of my fingers feel numb whilst the rest of my hand and fingers are in pain. My feet and toes feel like they are freezing whilst the bottom of my legs and my knees feel like they are burning.



Electric Throw, Easy To Store And Use

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'Dress Up Warm'

People say to me, 'Dress up warm' and they do not understand that dressing up warm does not work. I can be dressed up so called 'warm' with two pairs of gloves on and still be freezing and in pain. Worse than the sensation of cold is the sensation I feel at the backs of my hands with the slightest of a chill in the air.

I used a vibration plate to help with muscle waste and circulation. I used one for a while and I felt the benefits. My circulation and muscle strength improved. Unfortunately, I had cancer and you are advised not to use a vibration plate if you have or have had cancer.


Gloves That Actually Work

I have spent the last ten years feeling like my hands were blocks of ice. I struggled to warm them up. I spent my life in bed trying to stay warm because my cold hands were year round. Winters were spent in bed. Even in bed my hands felt frozen unless I was laid on them and they were touching my electric blanket. Nothing would help with the intense freezing sensations I felt on a daily basis. I could not write or use computer because my hands would get too cold. I had to take regular hot baths throughout the day because that was the only way to warm up.

I have tried the gloves that swear to help sufferers of Raynauds, they did not work for me and my hands continued to freeze. Then I found some little gloves that have warmed up my hands.They have usb socket and can be plugged into the computer. Now I can type without my fingers freezing. I can have my hands out of bed and they are warm. Whoever thought up these simple gloves have a massive thank you from me because they really do work.

A perfect gift anytime of year for anyone suffering from Raynauds. These gloves definitely brought a smile to my face I am glad to say.

Are you experiencing Raynauds?

Any questions?

Comment box below if you want to tell us about your experience.

Comments

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    • louiseelcross profile imageAUTHOR

      Louise Elcross 

      5 months ago from Preston

      I feel for your friend because it can be a distressing condition especially if you get cold. Thanks for reading.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      5 months ago

      Excellent article and of particular interest to me as my friend suffers with Raynaud's syndrome which is quite mild, although her fingers are very red and swollen in Winter, which is very painful. Your self-management tips are really useful and your own experience of the condition invaluable. Thank you for sharing.

    • profile image

      RTalloni 

      5 months ago

      Thanks for this explanation of Raynauds syndrome and information on managing it. Sharing your experience is helpful to others in many ways.

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