Do you tend to be more sensitive to the freezing temperatures than your friends, especially in your fingers and toes? You could just be cold, sure, but you could also be suffering from Raynaud’s disease.

In general chilly hands and feet are nothing to worry about. And, for most of us, cold hands and feet are a common complaint in winter, but for some unlucky individuals their extremities can get cold and go numb in even less-than-frigid temperatures. As many as one in ten people may have some form of Raynaud’s.

So, what is Raynaud’s disease? In people who have Raynaud’s, the small blood vessels in the extremities are over-sensitive to changes in temperature. This blood vessel disorder causes the blood vessels to narrow, keeping the blood from getting to the surface of the skin whenever exposed to cold, or in some cases, emotional stress. This causes a Raynaud’s attack where the fingers sometimes change colour from white, to blue, to red. Fingers or toes often become painful or have a tingling sensation. These symptoms could last from a few minutes to several hours.

For most people Raynaud’s isn’t disabling, but it can certainly affect your quality of life. Primary Raynaud’s is the most common form and is not the result of an associated medical condition. It can be so mild that many with primary Raynaud’s don’t seek treatment as it can be managed by lifestyle changes.

Secondary Raynaud’s on the other hand could be linked to other conditions such as scleroderma, and less commonly, to lupus. Secondary Raynaud’s is more serious and should not be left untreated; you’ll need a rheumatologist or vascular specialist to talk your through the options. If secondary Raynaud’s is severe – which is rare – diminished blood circulation to your fingers or toes could cause tissue damage.

Although there is no cure for this disease, the key to managing the symptoms is by trying to reduce the number and severity of the episodes.

Here’s how:

  • Soak your hands or feet in warm water at the first sign of an attack.
  • Massage the affected area to promote blood flow.
  • Bundle up outdoors. Wear a hat, scarf, boots and gloves on cold days.
  • Warm up your car. Run your car heater for a few minutes before driving in cold weather.
  • Take precautions indoors. Wear warm socks and sheepskin slippers to keep your feet warm. Wear gloves when taking food out of the refrigerator or freezer, and sleep with mittens and socks.
  • De-stress. Try to avoid anxious situations.
  • Stop smoking. Nicotine constricts blood vessels. Also, one cigarette can reduce the body’s temperature by one degree for up to twenty minutes.
  • Do gentle exercise to boost circulation.
  • Avoid vibrating tools such an electric mixer, as this could also trigger an episode.

When it comes to safeguarding your health, be on the lookout for symptoms that persist and interfere with your quality of life.

If you suspect that you may have Raynaud’s, speak to your health care provider sooner rather than later.



DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.