What Is Raynaud phenomenon?
Some parts of the body such as the fingers and toes become cold and numb due to cold weather or stress. This is due to Raynaud’s phenomenon, Raynaud’s syndrome or Raynaud’s disease, which causes the smaller arteries which supply blood to the skin to narrow, causing the blood circulation to get limited, thus affecting the areas (vasospasm).
Typically, when you experience a Raynaud’s attack, the areas of skin that are affected turn white and then turn blue and feel cold and numb. When you become warm and the circulation improves, the area may become red and you may have tingling, throbbing or swelling. Although Raynaud’s phenomenon mostly affects the fingers and toes, it may affect other parts of the body such as lips, ears, nose and even the nipples. And, usually after warming, it may take around 15 minutes for the blood flow to become normal.
More often, women are likely to suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon than men and it affects people living in places with a colder climate. Raynaud’s phenomenon is not disabling; however, it can affect the quality of your life.
What Are The Symptoms Of Raynaud phenomenon?
Some symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon are:
- Cold fingers or toes
- The color of the skin changes when it is too cold or due to stress
- Prickly feeling, numbness or stinging pain when fingers and toes are warmed or there is relief from stress
What Are The Causes Of Raynaud phenomenon?
The blood vessels become narrow limiting the blood supply temporarily. The small arteries can thicken over time and cause the blood flow to be limited even further.
Common triggers that cause Raynaud’s phenomenon are:
- Exposure to cold i.e. taking something out of the freezer, being exposed to the cold air, putting your hands into cold water, etc.
- Emotional stress.
Primary and Secondary Raynaud’s
Primary Raynaud’s: This is also known as Raynaud’s disease and is the most common form and not related to a medical condition. This is usually very mild and does not require any treatment and resolves by itself.
Secondary Renaud’s: This is known as Raynaud’s phenomenon and is caused due to an underlying issue. Raynaud’s phenomenon is more serious than primary Reynaud’s and is not very common either. The symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon usually appear when a person is around 40 years and some of the causes of secondary Renaud’s are:
- Disease of the connective tissue (diseases leading to scarring and hardening of the skin or scleroderma).
- Other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Arterial diseases like atherosclerosis (build-up of plaque in arteries), Buerger’s disease (inflammation of the blood vessels of the hands and feet), primary pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure affecting the arteries of the lungs).
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Repetitive vibration or action (playing the piano, typing, operating vibrating tools such as chainsaws, jackhammers, etc.).
- Smoking, which causes the constriction of the blood vessels.
- Hand and feet injuries (surgery, frostbite, fracture).
- Medications (beta blockers, medications for a migraine, ADHD medications, chemotherapy drugs, OTC cold medications, medicines that cause the narrowing of the blood vessels).
Some of the risk factors for primary Raynaud’s are:
- More often, women are affected than men.
- The condition of Raynaud’s starts between the ages 15-30 years.
- People living in colder areas are affected more commonly.
- Family history
Some of the risk factors for secondary Raynaud’s are:
- Diseases such as lupus and scleroderma.
- Some types of occupations that involve repetitive trauma and operating vibrating tools.
- Smoking, medications, and exposure to chemicals like vinyl chloride.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Raynaud phenomenon?
- When it is very cold, protect yourself, especially your hands and feet, using a scarf, hat, socks, gloves or mittens and boots.
- Wear loose clothes in layers to keep yourself warm.
- Make use of chemical hand warmers.
- Warm your car by turning on the heater before driving in the cold weather.
- When taking out food from the freezer or refrigerator, wear mittens, gloves or oven mitts.
- Wear socks and mittens when going to bed in winter.
- Using an air conditioner can trigger attacks, so set your air conditioner to warmer temperatures.
- When drinking cold beverages, use insulated drinking glasses.
- Exercising can help to improve circulation and help to prevent a Raynaud’s attack; however, it is advisable not to exercise outdoors in cold weather.
- Swimming is helpful for Raynaud phenomenon; however, take care that the water is not very cold, as cold water can trigger an attack.
In the case of a Raynaud’s attack:
- Warm your hands, feet and affected areas.
- Get into a warmer area or indoors if you are outside.
- Wiggle or move your fingers and toes.
- Warm your hands by placing them between your thighs or under your armpits.
- Run warm water over your hands and feet.
- Make windmills or wide circles with your arms.
- Massage your fingers and toes.
In case you have a Raynaud’s attack due to stress:
- Get out of the situation causing stress and relax.
- Practice some stress-reduction technique such as yoga, meditation or breathing techniques to calm yourself.
- Warm your fingers and toes in the water to relax and reduce the attack.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Raynaud phenomenon?
- Avoid cold environments.
- Avoid smoking or second-hand smoke as this causes the temperature of the skin to drop, causing the blood vessels to constrict and leading to an attack.
- If you suffer from Raynaud phenomenon, then avoid walking barefoot and take care of your feet to prevent any injury.
- Avoid wearing tight socks and garments that restrict blood flow to your hands and feet.
- Avoid stress and stressful situations as this can help to reduce the attacks.
- Avoid sudden changes in temperature such as from a hot room to an air-conditioned one.
- Avoid frozen food sections in the departmental or grocery store.
What Are The Best Foods For Raynaud phenomenon?
- Eating foods rich in vitamin E such as almonds, spinach, broccoli, fish, tomatoes, carrots, and pumpkin helps to enhance the blood flow and reduces the symptoms of Raynaud phenomenon.
- Consuming foods rich in magnesium such as leafy green vegetables, beans fish, brown rice, lentils, bananas, and avocados can help to dilate the tight blood vessels caused by Raynaud phenomenon and helps to reduce the symptoms.
- Foods like flaxseeds, walnuts, fish, fish liver oil and olive oil are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to reduce the inflammation in the body and the risk of Raynaud’s attacks.
- Vitamin B3 or niacin helps to stimulate the blood flow in the hands and feet. So, consuming foods like mushrooms, chicken, fish, avocados, green peas, which are rich in niacin can help to reduce the symptoms of Raynaud phenomenon.
- Spices such as cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and mustard provide warmth to the body and reduce the symptoms of Raynaud phenomenon.
- Citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, pineapples, grapefruit, etc. are great sources of vitamin C which help to boost the immune system and also helps to reduce the effects of Raynaud phenomenon.
- Vitamin E is wonderful in protecting the blood vessels and can help to treat the symptoms of Raynaud phenomenon. So, eating foods rich in vitamin E such as green leafy vegetables, seafood, nuts, and avocados can help to keep your blood vessels healthy and functioning efficiently.
What Are The Worst Foods For Raynaud phenomenon?
- Avoid foods that weaken the immune system and cause inflammation in the body such as refined carbohydrates, foods with chemicals and preservatives, processed and ready-to-eat foods, etc. as they worsen the symptoms of Raynaud phenomenon.
- Avoid alcohol and beverages with caffeine, as caffeine has vasoconstrictive properties that make the condition of Raynaud phenomenon worse.
- Avoid fatty and fried foods and hydrogenated and trans fats such as cottonseed oil, safflower oil, soy oil and corn oil and processed foods such as crackers, white bread, cereal, etc. as these foods block the absorption of essential nutrient and worsen the condition of Raynaud phenomenon.
What Are The Medicines For Raynaud phenomenon?
What Are The Tips To Manage Raynaud phenomenon?
Some natural remedies for Raynaud phenomenon are:
- Acupuncture can help as an alternative treatment for Raynaud phenomenon. Research reveals that patients suffering from Raynaud phenomenon who have undergone acupuncture therapy have shown decreased frequency of attacks.
- Using the technique of biofeedback and guided imagery can help to increase the temperature of the hands and feet and reduce the symptoms and severity of attacks due to Raynaud phenomenon. Also, using relaxation techniques, breathing and meditation can help to reduce stress.
- Consuming fish oil supplements can help to build the immune system and improve your tolerance to the cold.
- Taking Ginkgo biloba supplements can help to reduce the attacks caused by Raynaud phenomenon, as Ginkgo biloba has antioxidant and vasodilatory properties that can help to stimulate the circulatory system.
- Ginger contains bioactive compounds like gingerol that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and also helps to improve blood flow causing an increase in the body heat and reduces the effects of Raynaud phenomenon.
- Potassium helps to control the balance of fluids in the body and also helps to dilate the blood vessels. It helps to relax the muscles in the walls of the blood vessels and reduces the effects of Raynaud phenomenon.
- Essential oils like fennel, rosemary, nutmeg, clove, geranium, mace, black pepper, lavender, etc can help to warm the body and also improves the blood circulation. They can be applied to the body via compress, inhalation, topically, added to baths or diffuser and helps you to relax and reduce the effects of Raynaud phenomenon.