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  • Lucy Adie, Osteopath

OsteoBlog - Cold Hands, warm heart


Raynauds Phenomenon.

We thought this would be the perfect time of year to discuss this little known but common disease, which often becomes very much worse for cold weather.

Raynauds results in your fingers or toes, or both, becoming numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or periods of stress.

The smaller arteries that supply these areas start to narrow (vasospasm) and therefore limit the blood supply to the tissues. Women between age 15-30 are most often affected and those that live in colder countries. 20% of adults worldwide have the condition with 10 million in the UK.

Whilst Raynauds results in no long term damage, it can seriously effect quality of life.

The fingers and toes can go very white and will be completely numb. Prickly pins and needles sensations will occur as they re-warm. The nose, ear tips and lips can also be affected. The cause of Raynauds isn’t completely understood, but it appears to be an overreaction by the nerve supply of blood vessels to temperature or stress.

There are two classifications for this condition -

Primary Raynauds – this is not associated with any medical condition and tends to be so mild that it will often go largely unreported, and patients can manage it themselves.

Secondary Raynauds – caused by an underlying problem and symptoms can appear at age 40 or later.

Conditions which may exacerbate symptoms include - connective tissue disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogrens syndrome, atherosclerosis, pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lung vessels), carpal tunnel syndrome, vibration from work tools, smoking, fractures or surgery to wrist, medications that treat ADHD, beta blocker drugs, chemo drugs and some cold/flu remedies.

Complications

Prolonged blockage of arteries can lead to skin breakdown and gangrene and you may develop skin ulcers/sores.

If you are over 30 years of age when you develop Raynauds symptoms, then you will need blood tests to rule out other more serious conditions.

Treatment for Raynauds sufferers –

Wear warm clothing, keep your house warm, wear gloves, reduce stress.

There are blood vessel dilator drugs – Nifedipine, GTN topically, and you should try to stop smoking and exercise regularly to increase blood flow.

Avoid coffee, tea and cola as these are stimulants that can negatively effect blood flow.

You may be prescribed – fluoxetine, Sildenafil (viagra) or ACE inhibitors but these drugs are not the licensed treatments in the UK.

Surgery to stop nerves from overacting is only done in severe cases where the affected limb is at risk and usually only results in temporary cessation of symptoms.

For more information visit www.sruk.co.uk or www.arthritisresearchuk.org.

If you think you may have symptoms of Raynauds please consult your GP or practice Nurse.

Thanks for reading.


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