Raynaud’s disease is a rare disorder that affects the blood vessels, primarily in the fingers and toes. There are two types of Raynaud’s disease, primary which stems from an unknown cause and secondary which is called Raynaud’s syndrome. Raynaud’s syndrome is often worse because it accompanies other medical conditions such as scleroderma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
How do I know if I have it?
If you have Raynaud’s disease, the blood vessels in your fingers and your toes narrow and reduce the flow of blood. First, the fingers and or toes turn white and then blue. This phenomenon occurs when the fingers or toes are exposed to cold or a person is under emotional stress. Sometimes even a mild change in temperature can cause an attack.
The affected digits will feel cold and numb. Once the blood flow returns, the fingers and toes turn red and can be painful, or numbness and swelling can occur. Raynaud’s disease can also affect the ears, lips, nipples and nose, but this is less common.
Who gets it?
Raynaud’s is more prevalent in women between the ages of 15-40. Family history of Raynaud’s disease can also be a contributing factor as well as living in a colder climate. Listed below are other possible triggers:
- Medications-beta blockers used in the treatment of high blood pressure, migraine drugs that contain ergotamine, some common over the counter cold remedies, and certain agents in chemotherapy treatments.
- Medical conditions-including rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid conditions, buerger’s disease, pulmonary hypertension, scleroderma, lupus and certain blood disorders.
- Injuries to the hands and feet.
- Repetitive actions.
- Chemical exposure-to vinyl chloride, used in the plastic industry and methyl ethyl ketone, a chemical found in the outer shell of breast implants.
What should I do if I have it?
- Stay warm in the winter time. Wear warm clothes including, boots and mittens, wear several pairs of socks, a hat and a scarf.
- Stop smoking immediately. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels.
- Avoid medications that contain pseudoephedrine, beta blockers and birth control. Speak to your physician about alternative medications.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants.
- In extreme cases, wear gloves or mittens when taking food in or out of the freezer and refrigerator.
What about treatments?
There are some medications that can provide relief, but every patient is different and it is not a one size fits all approach. Some patients respond well at first and over time the medication will stop working altogether. These medications can also cause severe side effects. The medications commonly used include calcium-channel blockers, alpha blockers, and vasodilators.
Lifestyle changes and supplements that support better circulation may be a viable solution. Just like with the pharmaceutical medications there is no one size fits all approach, but the side effects can be far less severe. Your best bet is trial and error and find what works for you. Try some of the approaches listed below, but remember to always consult with your doctor first.
- Soak your hands and feet in warm water as soon as you feel an attack coming on.
- Try acupuncture.
- Try niacin (vitamin B3), this can help dilate the blood vessels.
- Take ginkgo biloba, this may improve circulation in the finger tips.
- Try herbs which can improve overall blood circulation. These include garlic, horse chestnut, cayenne, prickly ash, bayberry, and hawthorn berry.
If you have been diagnosed with Raynaud’s disease or syndrome make the necessary modifications and try some of the holistic approaches in your day to day life. Just like medication, holistic approaches take time to work, but they provide less adverse reactions and side effects.
If you are a woman who has breast implants or an explant patient and have been diagnosed with Raynaud’s syndrome, breast implants have a chemical found in the outer shell called methyl ethyl ketone and it can be treated. You will need to find a toxicologist in your area for treatment.
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