Do you have Raynaud’s?

Published: Sunday 8th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Most people have cold hands at this time of year.

But there are cold hands, and there are Raynaud’s cold hands, and if you’re not sure what that means, then you’re probably not one of the 10 million people in the UK – or one of the 10% of women – thought to suffer from Raynaud’s.

Named after a French doctor in 1862, Raynaud’s is a condition where, when exposed to cold temperatures, blood vessels go into temporary spasm, blocking the flow of blood and causing the affected area to turn white – then blue and then red as the blood flow finally returns.

“This affected area is most commonly the hands,” explains Dr Auldric Ratajczak, deputy medical director at . “Some sufferers are affected on their feet too, but this is rarer.”

Different types

Generally, it’s people with secondary Raynaud’s who’ll notice their toes undergoing this “blanching” process, while for those with primary Raynaud’s, it tends to be confined to fingers.

And the difference between this secondary and primary?

“It’s simply that primary is when it’s the condition on its own, and not linked to anything else, while secondary is when the Raynaud’s is just one extra symptom from another condition.”

Often, this other condition is an autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, and for that reason, those with secondary Raynaud’s often tend to be diagnosed later in life.

Cause unclear

The exact reason some people get Raynaud’s is uncertain. Some experts say the condition is more common in slimmer women, and it’s therefore easy to relate it to less body fat and the poor circulation sometimes associated with that. It’s also sometimes believed that it can run in families, or possibly be linked with poor immune function.

“The normal reaction to cold is that the arteries and blood vessels constrict,” says Dr Ratajczak. “Raynaud’s is doing this, but then going too far, and cutting off the oxygenated blood supply.”

In some more extreme cases, this will happen not just when you step out in cold weather, but when you simply sit under air conditioning, or stick your hand in a fridge, or run it under the cold tap.

“There can be excruciating pain too,” says Dr Ratajczak. “Not so much when your hands or feet are cut off from the blood flow, but when you warm up again and the blood returns.”

Avoiding triggers

“Living with Raynaud’s means knowing what your triggers are – be that cold weather, or air con – and then being prepared with gloves and so on,” says Dr Ratajczak.

Smoking and being stressed or anxious are also triggers, while certain medicines have been linked with an increased severity of Raynaud’s, particularly certain migraine and sinus treatments.

On the flip side, some natural supplements have been found to help people with Raynaud’s, from fish oil and evening primrose oil to and ginger.

Do you have Reynaud’s?

An “attack” of Raynaud’s can last from several minutes to several hours. There are three main stages to look out for:

First, affected body parts turn white, then lack of oxygen turns the area blue, and this can feel cold and numb. Finally, as blood returns at a higher rate than normal, the skin turns red, and will probably be accompanied by tingling or throbbing sensation, and maybe some swelling.

Copyright Press Association 2015

Published: Sunday 8th February 2015 by The News Editor

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