February is Raynaud’s Awareness Month. 1 in 6 people suffer with Raynaud’s but many people are unaware they have it. I recently discovered that I have this condition after experiencing symptoms for at least a couple of years. But what is it? This blog will give you an introduction to the condition and how you can spot the signs and help yourself if you suffer from it.
Please take into consideration that I was only diagnosed last month so I am still working out the little magic tricks to help lessen my symptoms. Symptoms also differ between each individual person and some may experience more severe symptoms than others. The key is experimenting with different treatments to see what works for you.
What is Raynaud’s Syndrome?
Raynaud’s Syndrome (also known as Raynaud’s Disease, Raynaud’s Phenomenon or simply Raynaud’s) is a condition where the small blood vessels in the extremities are over-sensitive to temperature changes, the cold and sometimes stress. These blood vessels constrict and this triggers the symptoms of Raynaud’s. These symptoms usually effect the fingers and toes but can often affect hands, feet, nose, tongue, nipples and ears.
The symptoms include:
- Colour changes – Often white, blue and red
- Cold extremities
- Tingling, pain and/or numbness
You may not experience all of these symptoms and you may only be affected in a small area (such as only a couple of fingers).
There are two types of Raynaud’s; primary and secondary. Primary Raynaud’s is usually mild and manageable. It is a stand alone condition which means it is not related to another condition. Secondary Raynaud’s is related to another condition, often an autoimmune condition and may have other complications such as ulcerations or sores.
How is it diagnosed?
Raynaud’s is usually diagnosed by a GP after an examination of your history and symptoms. Blood tests may be arranged if your GP suspects that your symptoms may be related to another condition.
How is it treated?
Depending on how severe your symptoms are, your GP may prescribe you medication to help manage them. These include:
- Calcium Channel Blockers – Help to relax and open small blood vessels
- Vasodilators – Relaxes blood vessels
- Beta Blockers
- Alpha Blockers
There are many different natural treatments that can help with the symptoms of Raynaud’s. These include:
- Nutritional support – Some vitamins have an antioxidant effect (vitamins C and E) which help to minimise damage to blood vessels and promote oxygen flow. Warming foods such as ginger are also said to help with symptoms. Always seek the advise of a nutritionist or kinesiologist to find out the safest method and amount of obtaining these nutrients
- Wrap up warm – The cold can trigger the symptoms but we can’t completely avoid it. Wear several thin layers of clothing rather than one thick layer. Wear a couple of pairs of gloves. You could also invest in some thermal gloves and socks. Silver fibre gloves (which are sold on the Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK website) are also self-insulating.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Avoid smoking – Can reduce body temperature
- Avoid stress – Some people find that stress can trigger their symptoms. While we can’t completely avoid stress, we can use various methods to help us relax and minimise the effects. These include: meditation, colouring books, massage, exercise, etc.
- Exercise – Exercise can help stimulate the circulation. This can be walking with the arms swinging by the sides, yoga, etc.
- Acupuncture – There have been studies to suggest that acupuncture can help to increase circulation and reduce inflammation in Raynaud’s
For as long as I can remember, I have always felt the cold more than anyone else around me. Then over the last couple of years, I noticed that my fingers and toes would go a bluey-purple tinge and would go tingly when cold or when I was stressed. I didn’t think anything of it until people around me told me it wasn’t normal. I decided to go to the doctors last month where she told me about Raynaud’s. It made complete sense. Mine is very mild with it mostly affecting my toes (they tend to be cold all the time, go a whitey/yellow colour then purple and go tingly). I am currently trying out different methods to help manage it:
- I practise a short meditation routine every night to help me relax.
- I’ve started getting acupuncture inbetween my fingers and toes to help stimulate my circulation (I know, sounds weird). I’ve only had one session so far so I’ll see how it works
- I wear lots of layers. I wear two pairs of gloves and socks when I go out (including a pair of silver fibre gloves and socks)
- I keep my feet covered as much as possible. When I’m at my gymnastics class, if my feet haven’t warmed up, I will keep my socks on floor and wear specialised gymnastics shoes on beam
- I have a hot water bottle in my bed each night
- I am trying to work on my nutritional support by including foods that contain antioxidants and are warming
I am still researching and working out different methods to help my individual case.
To find out more information, head over to https://www.sruk.co.uk/