Have you ever noticed that your fingers and toes change colour when you’re cold? Do they ever feel numb or hard to move?
If so, you may be suffering from Raynaud’s – and you’re not alone. It’s believed that one in six people in the UK live with the condition. So what is it?
Raynaud’s is a common phenomenon that affects your circulation. It doesn’t usually cause any severe problems, but it can be uncomfortable. Occasionally, it can be a sign of something more serious.
If you think you have Raynaud’s, here’s how you can manage the symptoms.
What is Raynaud’s?
Raynaud’s (pronounced Ray-nose) affects the blood supply to certain parts of your body. It’s a result of over-sensitive blood vessels in your extremities, like your hands and feet.
When your body is exposed to the cold, the blood vessels in your extremities become narrower. This keeps the rest of your body at a safe temperature.
If you have Raynaud’s, these blood vessels are more sensitive. They overreact to the cold and narrow more than usual. This means even less blood flows through them.
The condition can also be triggered by strong emotions, like stress and anxiety.
What are symptoms of Raynaud’s?
The most common symptoms of Raynaud’s are:
- fingers and toes that change colour
- pain and numbness
- pins and needles
- difficulty moving the affected area.
During an attack, the affected areas often turn white or blue. They may feel cold and numb. As you warm up, the areas may turn red and sting. Attacks can be triggered by a change in temperature, emotional changes, stress, and hormones.
We aren’t sure exactly what causes Raynaud’s. It usually occurs by itself, without being associated with any other health condition. It’s more common in women than men, and there’s also some evidence that it may be genetic.
In rare cases, Raynaud’s can be caused by an underlying health condition. Some autoimmune conditions have been associated with Raynaud’s. These include scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
Can Raynaud’s be treated?
If the symptoms of Raynaud’s affecting your daily life, you should see your GP. The condition can be diagnosed by them, either by placing your hands in cold water or cool air, or with a blood test. They may also prescribe a medicine called nifedipine.
For most people, the best way to treat Raynaud’s is keeping your body warm. The NHS recommends:
- keeping your home warm
- wearing warm clothes during cold weather, especially on your hands and feet
- trying breathing exercises or yoga to help you relax
- avoiding large quantities of caffeine, particularly if you notice that symptoms are triggered by your emotions
Taking steps to improve your overall circulation will also help you manage the symptoms of Raynaud’s. Taking regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and stopping smoking can all improve your blood flow.
Avoid tight clothing, as this can restrict blood flow further, and make sure you change out of wet shoes as soon as possible. Eating and drinking can also help keep you warm, so make sure you are eating lots of small meals to maintain your energy, and drinking plenty of hot drinks.