February is National Raynaud’s Awareness month, but what is Raynaud’s?
Raynaud’s is a condition where the small blood vessels in the hands, feet, ears, nose and nipples are over-sensitive to the slightest changes in temperature, the cold and sometimes stress. This may cause the fingers or toes to change colour, the extremities may be cold to the touch, you may experience numbness, tingling or pain in the extremities. These symptoms may make everyday tasks very difficult.
Primary and Secondary
There are 2 forms of Raynaud’s, Primary and Secondary. Primary is usually mild and manageable and there are usually no other complications. Secondary Raynaud’s is caused by another condition, usually an autoimmune disease, for example lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. It requires investigations and people with secondary Raynaud’s need to monitor their symptoms for complications like ulcers.
Who does it affect?
It is thought to affect 1 in 6 people in the UK, with primary Raynaud’s more common in young women and girls. In most of these cases no cause is identified, however, links have been found to emotional changes, stress, hormones, and even the use of vibrating tools.
How to manage the symptoms
General measures for the management of Raynaud’s include education, warming of the affected body part, and stopping the use of vasoconstricting agents such as certain drugs or nicotine. It is a good idea to avoid environmental factors which aggravate your symptoms such as direct contact with frozen foods or cold drinks. The use of gloves or thick socks may also be beneficial. Physiotherapy management including massage, exercise and acupuncture may have some benefit in managing the symptoms of Raynaud’s and may also reduce stress levels which may further reduce symptoms.