Understanding Raynaud's Disease

Understanding Raynaud’s Disease

Richard Kang, MD Blog

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It’s normal to have tingling or numbness in your fingers and toes in response to the cold, right? To some extent, yes. But when the numbness lasts longer than normal or is accompanied by other symptoms such as the skin turning white or blue, feeling cold to the touch, and a prickly or painful sensation upon warming, it may be a condition called Raynaud’s Disease.

Raynaud’s is defined by the narrowing of the small blood vessels in the extremities as a response to cold or stress. Blood flow to these areas is restricted and may take longer than normal to return.

Symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease

  • Cold fingers, toes, nose, ears, and other extremities
  • Abnormal skin color such as white, blue, or purple in the extremities
  • Numb, prickly, or stinging pain as the skin warms or stress is relieved

Possible Triggers of Raynaud’s Disease

People who experience Raynaud’s disease report two basic triggers or causes of their episodes. For some it’s only one trigger and for others it can be both.

  1. Cold. Most of us have felt numbness in our fingers and toes as a response to being in the cold for an extended period of time. The difference for people with Raynaud’s Disease is that this response happens immediately after just a short exposure to cold. Simply taking an item out of the freezer, going outside in cold temperatures without gloves (even just long enough to go to the mailbox,) or holding a cold beverage in a non-insulated cup is enough to trigger an episode of Raynaud’s.
  2. Stress. For some, an episode of Raynaud’s Disease is triggered by stress of some kind. When a person experiences stress, the body can go into defense mode, part of which involves restricting the blood vessels. It’s similar to when the body goes into shock, but on a much smaller scale.

Types of Raynaud’s Disease

There are two types of RD:

  1. Primary. The common, milder form of RD doesn’t come from any other associated medical condition. It can resolve on its own and may not require any treatment.
  2. Secondary. Sometimes called “Raynaud’s Phenomenon,”, the secondary type is caused by some kind of underlying medical condition, such as:
  • Connective tissue diseases. Scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjogren’s Syndrome.
  • Disease of the arteries. Atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque in the arteries), Buerger’s Disease (inflammation of the blood vessels of the hands and feet), primary pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure affecting the arteries in the lungs).
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. When there is pressure on the nerve in the wrist leading to the hand.
  • Repetitive Action or Vibration. Playing the piano or using a jackhammer for extended periods of time.
  • Hand or foot injuries. Fractures, injuries requiring surgery, or frostbite.
  • Complications from Smoking. Smoking can restrict the blood vessels.

How to Prevent RD Episodes

These are not guaranteed to prevent episodes of Raynaud’s Disease, but some people find that the following can help:

  • Keep warm.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Avoid caffeine.
  • Avoid certain medications with pseudoephedrine and beta-blockers. (Talk to your doctor about your medications if you experience episodes of Raynaud’s Disease.)

Treatments for RD

If the above preventative measures don’t improve or prevent episodes, your doctor may recommend other options, such as:

  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Herbal supplements
  • Biofeedback training

Tips for Keeping Warm

  • Wear gloves or mittens in cold weather.
  • Wear oven mitts or use a pot holder to get things out of the freezer.
  • Use an insulator (or koozie) when holding cold drink cans or cups.
  • Use insulated cups for drinking cold beverages.
  • Wear a hat to keep from losing body heat through your head.
  • Wear warm layers to keep your core warm.
  • Keep your body dry.

Tips for Reducing Stress

  • Breathe deeply
  • Meditate
  • Take a break
  • Exercise
  • Do yoga
  • Watch or read something funny

When Should You Seek Treatment for Raynaud’s Disease

If you have a history of severe Raynaud’s symptoms or you develop a sore or infection in one your affected fingers or toes, you should seek medical treatment.

CORE Medical & Wellness Treats Raynaud’s Disease

If the symptoms associated with Raynaud’s Disease are causing you regular discomfort, call CORE Medical & Wellness: (888) 521-0688 or find them online at http://www.coremedicalwellness.com. A team of doctors, all with varying specializations, are available to treat a wide range of conditions, including Raynaud’s Disease. You don’t have to tolerate the symptoms when treatments options are available. Visit CORE Medical & Wellness and start your journey to better health today.

Dr. Richard Kang is double board certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine, and he  completed an interventional pain medicine fellowship at the prestigious New York Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University – College of Physicians and Surgeons.  Read his full bio here.