What is Raynaud’s and How Can I Help my Symptoms?
Raynaud’s (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Raynaud’s disease) is a common condition that affects blood circulation, particularly in the fingers and toes. It results in pain and numbness in the affected areas, which can also lead to pins and needles and difficulty moving the joints.
But the most obvious symptom of Raynaud’s is a change in the colour of the skin of the affected area, when you feel cold. First, the skin will go white, for example the skin on the tips of your fingers. This occurs because the blood flow becomes restricted.
If the episode is particularly harsh, the area may turn blue as the blood vessels remain restricted. When the blood flow returns, the area will turn red before returning to normal.
Can Raynaud’s Affect Other Areas of the Body?
The condition can also affect the ears, the tip of the nose, the lips and the nipples – it affects parts of the body that are on the ‘extremities’. In other words, parts of the body that are on the outer edges, furthest away from the core, where the body is warmest. Being anxious or stressed can also bring on an episode of Raynaud’s.
Is Raynaud’s Serious?
Raynaud’s doesn’t usually cause severe symptoms, but it can still be distressing. If you think you have the condition, it’s best to talk to your GP.
These symptoms could be a sign of something more serious such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, both types of autoimmune disease, so it’s best to get a proper diagnosis.
What Can I do to Help my Raynaud’s?
If you have Raynaud’s, there are a few things you can do to make your symptoms less uncomfortable. As Raynaud’s is triggered by feeling cold, the first thing to do is make sure you stay warm. Keep your home warm, and always wear gloves and warm socks when you’re outside.
If you work in a chilly environment, try wearing fingerless gloves that will help to keep your hands warm whilst keeping your fingers free for working. You could also try holding hand warmers, or popping them inside your gloves. Using vibrating tools can cause Raynaud’s so if you work in such a job, you may need to speak to Occupational Health.
As with any health condition, eating a healthy diet will mean you’re healthier and better able to deal with your symptoms. There are some supplements that can help, too. Gingko biloba is a herbal supplement that can help improve circulation and blood flow and fish oils have been linked with a reduction in symptoms. Vitamin E and magnesium supplements can also help improve blood flow and reduce symptoms.
If you smoke, its definitely worth giving up, as smoking restricts the blood vessels, potentially making Raynaud’s worse. Staying active will also help, as it gets the blood pumping around the body.
February 1st marks the beginning of Raynaud’s awareness month. If you need more information on how you can help manage your symptoms, sign up to the Scleroderma & Raynaud’s UK newsletter for help and support.