Relieving The Symptoms of Reynaud's Disease
Raynaud's disease is an uncommon disorder of the blood vessels, usually affecting fingers and toes. The blood vessels narrow down when a person is exposed to cold or stress. When this happens, blood cannot get to the surface of the skin and the affected areas turn white and blue. When the blood flow returns afterwards, the skin turns red and tingles or throbs. In severe cases, loss of blood flow can cause the tissues to die.
Primary, Raynaud's happens on its own. The cause is unknown. There is also secondary Raynaud's, which is caused by injuries, other diseases, or side effects from using certain medicines.
People in colder climates are more likely to develop Raynaud's. It is also more common in women, people with a family history of the disease, and those over the age of 30.
Treatment for Raynaud's may include drugs to keep the blood vessels open. There are also simple and more organic things you can do yourself, such as
- Soaking hands in warm water at the first sign of an attack
- Keeping your hands and feet warm in cold weather with apparel
- Avoiding triggers, such as certain medicines and stress
- Using hand warmers
A long instance of unattended Raynaud's disease can cause necrosis, gangrene, and even amputation. So immediate prevention can be taken by trying motion (for example moving arms in the air until circulation returns) instead of just rubbing the hands vigorously or banging the hands against hard surface which in turn can damage the blood vessels. Disposable hand warmers when activated can stay warm for up to 10 hours. You can also put a body warmer under your covers which will release heat for up to 24 hours. These warmers stop the cold and the pain so that the individual can continue to work as normal. These warmers can be used by the people suffering from Reynaud's disease.
Twelve patients with Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) due to systemic sclerosis (SS) warmed their hands for 5 min in hot water every 4 hours throughout the day during alternate weeks of a six-week study. There was a statistically significant decrease in the number and duration of Raynaud's attacks in the weeks in which warming was performed compared with the intervening weeks. An increase in blood flow as measured by lazer-Doppler flow metry accompanied clinical improvement. Simple hand warming appears to be effective in the management of RP in patients with SS.
Ninety five percent of patients with systemic sclerosis (SS) suffer from Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) at some stage of their illness. Many vasodilatory drugs have been used to treat this condition. These include reserpine/ guanethidine, and most recently the calcium channel blocking drug, nifedipine. All of these agents produce some symptomatic improvement, though less in SS than in primary RP. However, clinical improvement is associated with little improvement in blood flow,'' possibly because all of these agents produce a fall in blood pressure, and there is evidence that finger blood flow in SS may be primarily determined by the arterial pressure. We have recently demonstrated the vasodilatory effect of simple hand warming in patients SS, and present here the results of an open investigation of the effect of simple hand warming on the frequency and duration of RP in 12 patients with SS.
- Caroline Mayou