Raynaud’s disease or phenomenon makes your body numb and cold when you are in very cold temperatures or under stress. It usually happens in fingers and toes. Its pronunciation is ray-nose. In this disease, small arteries become narrow, which helps supply blood to the skin. It limits blood flow to affected areas.
It mostly affects women or people living in colder regions. Its treatment depends on the condition and severity of the symptoms. It is a treatable disease, but it changes the pattern or quality of living of the affected person.
Raynaud’s disease has some common symptoms, but its severity varies from person to person. Its symptoms include:
- Cold fingers or toes
- Color changes of the skin when comes in clod temperature or stress
- Numb, prickly feeling or stinging pain upon warming or stress relief
When there is an attack of Raynaud’s disease, the affected person’s skin and the affected area first turns white, then turns blue, and feels cold and numb. Its first aid includes warming up the affected area as it improves blood circulation. Then the affected areas may turn red, throb, tingle, or swell.
It mostly affects fingers and toes, but sometimes it may affect the nose, lips, ears, and even nipples. As you warm up the affected area, it will return to normal. It may take 15 minutes.
Till now, there is no specific reason or cause for Raynaud’s disease or attacks, but it seems like blood vessels in the hands and feet overreact to cold temperatures or stress.
Types of Raynaud’s disease
There are two types of Raynaud’s phenomenon that are primary and secondary. We have discussed them below in detail.
Primary Raynaud’s Disease
It is the most common form of this disease. It is mild, and sometimes people suffering from this don’t take any medical assistance. It usually recovers on its own.
Secondary Raynaud’s Disease
It is a less common form of this disease. It usually appears after 40, and symptoms can be serious. It needs treatment as it can increase over time. Causes for secondary Raynaud’s are given below:
- People who suffer from a rare disease that makes skin hard and scar (scleroderma) have Raynaud’s chances.
- People with plaques in blood vessels that feed the heart are more likely to have Raynaud’s. It is a disorder in which the hands and feet’ blood vessels become inflamed. Also, high blood pressure affects the arteries of the lungs.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that involves pressure on a nerve to your hand, which leads to numbness and pain in hand. This creates a problem when it comes to cold temperatures.
- Repetitive action or vibration from typing, playing piano, or doing these kinds of movements for long periods can lead to overuse injuries.
- Smoking constricts blood vessels which makes it easier for Raynaud’s to attack.
- Medications like beta-blockers for high blood pressure, ergotamine, and sumatriptan also have side effects, leading to Raynaud’s attack.
If a person has mild symptoms, then layering woolen clothes, using chemical heaters, and sipping hot beverages can do the job. But if a person is suffering from severe symptoms of Raynaud’s disease, then immediate treatment is required.
Medications can help in the reduction of the number and severity of attacks. Also, prevent damage of tissues and treat the underlying disease or condition.
Medicines help widen the blood vessels, which increases blood flow in the body. Medicines are always prescribed by the doctor depending on the disease’s condition and severity. Doctor’s usually prescribe:
- Calcium channel blockers. This kind of drug helps in relaxing and opening small blood vessels in your hands and feet that reduce the severity and number of attacks in people with Raynaud’s disease. This also helps to heal skin ulcers on your fingers or toes.
- Vasodilators. These drugs, which relax blood vessels, include nitroglycerin cream (Nitro-Dur) applied to your fingers’ base to help heal skin ulcers. Other vasodilators include the high blood pressure drug losartan (Cozaar), the erectile dysfunction medication sildenafil (Viagra, Revatio), the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), and a class of medications called prostaglandins.
Surgeries and medical procedures
Doctors sometimes may recommend surgery or injections if you suffer from acute Raynaud’s disease.
- Nerve surgery. There are sympathetic nerves in your hands and feet that control the opening and narrowing of blood vessels in your skin. Nerve surgery includes cutting these nerves, interrupts their exaggerated responses. These small incisions in the hands or feet help a doctor strips these tiny nerves around the blood vessels—side effects of this surgery are fewer and shorter attacks.
- Chemical injection. Doctors usually inject chemicals such as local anesthetics or onabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) to block sympathetic nerves in affected hands or feet. If symptoms persist or return, you might need to repeat the procedure.
Certain precautions need to be taken to avoid this disease.
- Outdoor layering: When you are going out in cold temperatures, make sure to wear a woolen cap, scarf, socks, and boots. Cover yourself up from head to toe in woolen clothes so that the temperature can not create any problem.
- You can use chemical hand warmers. Raynaud’s disease gloves protect you from the cool winds. Especially cover your nose and earlobes as they are more sensitive to the cool temperature.
- Warm your car. Before going on a drive, run your car heater for a few minutes. As it will get warm, you are good to go.
- Take precautions indoors. Wear socks and gloves. While taking food out of the refrigerator, wear gloves to save yourself from cold. If you feel comfortable wearing mittens and socks to bed, make it a habit. Set your air conditioner to a warmer temperature.