- Treatment for Raynaud’s disease is necessary to improve blood circulation and keep your body warm.
- To treat Raynauds, you can try medications and lifestyle changes – such as exercising more, quitting smoking, and reducing stress – that increase circulation and relax blood vessels.
- It’s also important that people with Raynaud wear a hat, insulated gloves, and thick socks during the colder months, as people with this condition are at a higher risk of frostbite.
- This article was medically reviewed by Jason R. McKnight, MD, MS, a family doctor and assistant clinical professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine.
- Check out Insider’s Insider Reference Library for more advice.
Raynaud’s disease is a condition that makes parts of your body such as fingers or toes feel cold and numb when you are in cold temperatures or when you feel stressed.
Raynaud’s occur in 3 to 5% of adults worldwide. While there is no cure for Raynauds, there are medical treatments and lifestyle changes that can help make your symptoms more manageable.
Here’s what you need to know about Raynaud’s disease and what you can do to keep symptoms under control.
What is Raynaud’s Disease?
Raynaud’s disease or Raynaud’s phenomenon (RP) is caused by problems with your blood vessels, often with the small vessels in your fingers and toes. A Raynaud’s attack occurs when these blood vessels abnormally narrow, reduce blood flow to your fingers and toes, and cause painful symptoms.
An attack of Raynaud’s symptoms usually comes in three phases:
- The skin on your fingers or toes will turn white.
- Your skin will then turn blue and feel cold and numb.
- When you get warm again or blood circulation returns, your skin will turn red and may tingle, pound, or swell.
There are two different types of Raynaud’s disease: primary and secondary.
Primary Raynauds. This is the most common form of the disease and tends to have milder symptoms. Primary Raynauds are not caused by an underlying disease and can resolve on their own without treatment.
You are at a higher risk for primary Raynauds if:
Secondary Raynauds. This is caused by an underlying condition that reduces blood flow to your hands and feet. Secondary Raynauds usually develop around the age of 40 and symptoms tend to be more severe.
Secondary Raynauds can be caused by the following conditions:
- Arterial diseases
- Connective tissue diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma, a tissue disorder
- Injury to your hands or feet from an accident or surgery
- A history of smoking
- Certain drugs that can narrow blood vessels, such as: B. for migraines, high blood pressure or colds
If there are additional symptoms in addition to Raynaud’s, such as difficulty swallowing, skin thickening, or shortness of breath, it could be a sign that there is a medical problem, says Dr. Elena Schiopu, Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Michigan. If you have any of these signs you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
How to treat Raynaud’s disease
There is no treatment that can permanently cure Raynauds, but there are many things you can do to reduce Raynaud’s seizures and keep your symptoms under control.
If you have severe Raynaud’s, you may need to take medication to keep your symptoms under control. For example, your doctor may prescribe:
- Calcium channel blockersthat help by opening the small blood vessels in your hands and feet. This can include amlodipine (Norvasc) and nifedipine (Afeditab).
- Vasodilatatoren can be used when someone is not responding to calcium channel blockers. Vasodilators relax your blood vessels and make blood flow more easily through your body. This may include blood pressure medications like losartan (Cozaar) or erectile dysfunction medications like sildenafil (Viagra).
Try to change your lifestyle
There are several important lifestyle changes you can make to reduce Raynaud’s relapses.
- Work out can be helpful because it increases blood flow to your body. However, you may want to ask your doctor if you can exercise outside in cold weather, especially if you have secondary Raynauds.
- Stop smoking may help Raynaud’s symptoms because smoking narrows your blood vessels and lowers your skin temperature, which can trigger a Raynaud’s attack. Secondhand smoke from another person can have the same harmful effects.
- reduce stress An important step in your life in treating Raynauds can be as emotional stress can cause your blood vessels to constrict. Schiopu suggests trying out techniques such as mindfulness-based stress reduction or biofeedback.
Make sure you bundle up
It is important to stay warm if you are to prevent Raynaud’s attacks. “It is important to protect the head with a hat because a lot of heat is lost through our heads,” says Schiopu.
Wearing a warm hat, insulated gloves, and thick socks will help, but ideally, you should wear warm clothing all over your body in cold weather. Keeping your chest and stomach bundled with insulated layers can help prevent your blood vessels from narrowing too much.
Careful clothing against the common cold is vital as people with Raynaud are at greater risk of frostbite.
Even if you are indoors, staying in an area with strong air conditioning can trigger Raynaud’s attacks in some people. Wearing extra layers or fingerless gloves at work can help keep symptoms at bay. Schiopu also recommends sitting far away from fans or ventilation slots and using space heating if necessary.
In less common, extreme cases, your doctor may suggest surgery to treat Raynaud’s disease. There are two types of surgery that can help Raynaud’s symptoms:
- Inject chemicals such as onabotulinum toxin type A (botox) or a local anesthetic can also help block the nerves that cause blood vessels to narrow.
- Nerve surgery is a rare treatment that involves cutting out the nerves that surround the blood vessels in the hands and feet. These nerves cause your blood vessels to narrow. So removing them can help stop the excessive narrowing.
Although surgery is possible, most doctors will try other treatments first. “Surgical interventions are not widespread,” says Schiopu. Overall, many patients with Raynaud tend to adapt to lifestyle changes over time and can live relatively comfortably.
The final result
Raynaud’s disease can be a painful and sometimes dangerous condition, but there are many treatments available to help keep symptoms under control. If you think you have Raynauds, talk to your doctor about the best treatment for you.
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