For Raynaud’s Disease Awareness month, our team of specialists sat down to discuss the most commonly asked questions and concerns regarding Raynaud’s Disease. Raynaud’s awareness programs can help people with this condition manage their symptoms to have a more fully-functional life. Awareness programs also educate and advise patients’ families on how best to support their loved ones with Raynaud’s.
Q: What is Raynaud’s?
A: Raynaud’s (ray-NOSE) disease causes certain areas of the body, such as fingers and toes, to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress. The smaller arteries that supply blood to the skin narrow and spasm, which limits blood circulation to those areas.
Q: Who is at the greatest risk for developing Raynaud’s?
A: Raynaud’s disease can occur on its own, which is known as the primary form. Or it may happen alongside other conditions, then it’s considered the secondary form. The primary form of Raynaud’s is the most common type and often begins between ages 15 and 25. The primary form is less severe than the secondary form.
The coinciding illnesses most often linked with Raynaud’s are autoimmune or connective tissue diseases are:
-Lupus –Scleroderma –Rheumatoid Arthritis –Vascular Disease such as atherosclerosis
-Polymyositis –Blood Disorders, such as Cryoglobulinemia –Thyroid Disorders –Pulmonary Hypertension
Q: What causes Raynaud’s?
A: The direct cause of Raynaud’s Disease is still unknown. However, we do know women are more likely to experience this condition. Also, people who live in colder climates are at a higher risk.
Additional factors that may trigger a Raynaud’s ‘attack’:
Stress, Injuries To the Lower Extremities, Reactions From Certain Medications, and Certain Lifestyle Factors (Such as smoking)
Q: Is Raynaud’s a common disease?
A: Raynaud’s Disease is a common condition, occurring in 3 to 5 percent of adults worldwide.
Q: What are the main symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease?
A: Symptoms of Raynaud’s usually include but are not limited to cold fingers or toes, areas of skin that turn very white or pale blue, and numb or prickly sensations upon warming.
Another tell-tale sign is when outdoors in colder temperatures you notice that the other people you are with are not experiencing the same sensations in their extremities (such as extremely cold toes or fingers, numbness, skin color change, or taking as long to warm up).
Q: You mentioned that there can be a Raynaud’s ‘Attack’. How does an attack differ from the principal and more constant symptoms?
A: During an active attack of Raynaud’s, existing symptoms may worsen, or new ones may develop and may come on suddenly. Affected areas of the skin usually first turn pale. Next, they often change color and feel cold and numb. When the skin is able to warm and blood flow improves, the affected areas may change color again, throb, tingle, or swell.
The main difference between a Raynaud’s attack and the main symptoms associated with Raynaud’s disease is that during a Raynaud’s attack, the symptoms usually last for longer periods of time and are more severe when they occur. Only one finger or toe may be affected at first; then, it may move to other fingers and toes. An attack may only last a few minutes or up to a few hours, and the pain associated with each episode can vary but is usually more extreme than those not experiencing an attack.
Q: Is There A Connection Between Diet and Raynaud’s Disease?
A: There isn’t an abundance of research into a specific diet for Raynaud’s syndrome. Although, some studies do suggest several foods and food groups that can be highly beneficial in improving circulation and dilating blood vessels to aid blood flow in the body.
As always, if you’re planning to change your diet and introduce new food groups it’s always best to do so under the guidance of a nutrition and healthcare professional. Some of the foods listed below may not be suitable for those on medication, pregnant people, or those with other illnesses, however, all are linked to improving blood flow in the body:
Foods and Ingredients that improve circulation:
Oily Fish, Nuts, Dark Chocolate, Blueberries, and Unpeeled Apples
Q: Is there a connection between nutrient deficiencies and Raynaud’s Disease?
A: Symptoms similar to those seen with Raynaud’s disease do occur in people with magnesium deficiencies. This is probably because a deficiency of this mineral results in spasms of blood vessels. Sources of magnesium are in foods such as avocado, spinach, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. Magnesium is often in a daily multivitamin.
Q: Does hydration affect blood circulation in the body?
A: Yes! Hydration does affect blood circulation in the body. Dehydration can reduce the amount of blood moving through the blood vessels, exacerbating Raynaud’s symptoms. Our specialists recommend incorporating herbal teas into your daily routine. Teas with natural herbs such as cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and cardamom have been shown to improve blood circulation levels within the body. Herbal teas will also help keep your hands warm and aid your hydration.
Q: What are the most common treatments for Raynaud’s Disease?
A: The main goal for treating Raynaud’s Disease is to reduce the number and severity of attacks, prevent tissue damage, and treat the root cause of the underlying condition. Blood tests can help determine whether another condition, such as an autoimmune or connective tissue disease, is causing Raynaud’s symptoms.
Blood tests for Raynaud’s might include:
– Antinuclear antibodies test, also called an ANA test. A positive test result often means that your immune system is mistakenly attacking body tissue, an autoimmune reaction. Such immune system dysfunction is frequent for people who have connective tissue diseases or other autoimmune disorders.
– Erythrocyte sedimentation rate. This test shows the rate at which red blood cells fall to the bottom of a tube. A faster-than-typical rate might signal an inflammatory or autoimmune disease.
Other courses of treatment for Raynaud’s include but are not limited to:
Dressing for the cold in layers and wearing gloves or heavy socks usually can help mild symptoms of Raynaud’s
Lifestyle Improvements and Home Remedies
Certain Medications or Surgeries can treat more-severe symptoms of Rayaud’s
If you do happen to experience a Raynaud’s attack, our specialists recommend that you:
- Get indoors or to a warmer area.
- Wiggle your fingers and toes.
- Place hands under armpits.
- Make wide circles with your arms.
- Run warm — not hot — water over your fingers and toes.
- Massage your hands and feet.
Q: What remedies can be used for this condition?
A: Certain practices, supplements, and lifestyle changes can help blood flow better and might help manage Raynaud’s. However, alternative medicine practices need more study to know whether or not they help with Raynaud’s symptoms. If you’re interested, please talk to your healthcare provider about alternative remedies relating to Raynaud’s Disease.
Q: What is it like to live with Raynaud’s Disease?
A: For most people living with Raynaud’s, it is more of an inconvenience than a serious problem. Avoiding triggers, primarily cold temperatures, can reduce the spasms that lead to symptoms. If there is an underlying cause, such as scleroderma or lupus, it may be more difficult to manage attacks. If you have secondary Raynaud’s, work with your healthcare provider to manage your underlying condition, and decrease the quantity and severity of attacks.
Q: When should you visit your doctor?
A: Our team of specialists recommends that you see your healthcare provider right away if you have a family history of Raynaud’s, are experiencing symptoms related to the disease, or if you should have an infection or wound in one of your affected fingers or toes.
Takeaway and Key Points About Raynaud’s:
- Raynaud’s is a disorder that causes decreased blood flow to the fingers. In some cases, it also causes less blood flow to the ears, toes, knees, or nose.
- Spasms of blood vessels happen in response to cold, stress, or emotional upset.
- Secondary causes of Raynaud’s include lupus, scleroderma, and other illnesses.
- Symptoms of Raynaud’s include fingers that turn pale or white then blue when exposed to cold or during stress or emotional upset. They then redden when the hands are warmed.
- Managing Raynaud’s includes avoiding cold, dressing warmly, and stopping smoking.
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