Raynaud's disease is where the small blood vessels in the extremities such as hands and feet, fingers or toes are over-sensitive to even the slightest changes in temperature, the cold and sometimes stress.
This causes a Raynaud's attack where the fingers sometimes change colour, but not always, from white, to blue, to red. Raynaud's phenomenon is a common condition thought to affect up to ten million people in the UK and can impact your life.
A Raynaud's attack can be a very uncomfortable, possibly painful, process. It can also make everyday tasks, like buttoning a jacket or unzipping a purse, very difficult. Raynaud's symptoms generally affect the fingers and toes, but all extremities can be involved, including the hands, feet, ears, nose, lips, tongue and nipples.
Raynaud's symptoms are:
· a colour change in the extremities such as hands or feet
· cold extremities and numbness
· tingling or pain
How serious is Raynaud's?
There are two different types of Raynaud's, Primary and Secondary. Primary is usually the less serious of the two types as the condition is mild and manageable whilst people experiencing secondary Raynaud's will usually have more severe symptoms.
This is usually mild and manageable and there are ways to help manage the symptoms. People with primary Raynaud's symptoms have no other complications, and only occasionally go on to develop a related problem. People with Primary Raynaud's should book an appointment with their GP if they are worried about symptoms or it impacts their life through pain, or if they have any other symptoms, or an other health condition.
This is where Raynaud's is caused by another condition, usually an autoimmune condition like scleroderma or lupus. Secondary Raynaud's needs more investigation and more careful monitoring for complications like ulceration or sores. People who have noticed a change in their symptoms, are worried about their symptoms, if they have any other symptoms, or an other health condition should book an appointment with their GP promptly and ask about Raynaud's diagnosis.
Although there is no cure for Raynaud's, it can be treated. The key to managing Raynaud's symptoms is to try to prevent an attack - planning ahead is vital.
Here are some ways you can manage Raynaud's phenomenon.
· Keep warm- Do all you can to avoid cold environments, touching cold items or spending time in areas where temperatures fluctuate.
· Relax and pace yourself- Try to steer clear of stressful situations as stress and anxiety can trigger an attack. Take rests when you can to avoid getting too fatigued.
The Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK) describes a good way of helping to focus on your breathing, called controlled breathing, (also known as diaphragmatic breathing) which uses your diaphragm and lower chest muscles. To try this technique, follow the steps below:
· Get into a comfortable position where your neck, shoulders and back are well supported, such as in an upright chair with armrests or by leaning against a wall.
· Relax your shoulders, neck and arms.
· Place your hands on your tummy, just above your belly button.
· Give a little cough- the muscle you feel under your hand is your diaphragm.
· As you breathe in, allow your tummy to swell- you'll feel your hands rising and being pushed out by your diaphragm and tummy muscles.
· As you breathe out, relax and let your tummy fall.
For more information on how to control your breathing, or for breathlessness in general, please phone 01270 872776 and request a booklet. Alternatively, you can find out more information on the NHS Choices website.
Complimentary therapies can bring relief from symptoms for some. These are listed within our treatments section. Speak to your doctor about treatments
· One drug, Nifedipine, a calcium channel blocker, is licensed for Raynaud's, and there are drugs that are prescribed commonly for Raynaud's too. Nifedipine doesn't cure Raynaud's, but can help to relieve symptoms. Other medications have been used to treat Raynaud's, with mixed results, and more can be found on our treatments page.
· Iloprost is available for extreme cases.
· Botox is an experimental Raynaud's treatment, which may reduce blood vessel spasm and block pain nerves. Increasing amounts of research is emerging for it, but it is only used in selected cases and usually only in specialist centres.
· Some Raynaud's sufferers have found acupuncture alleviates symptoms.