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Raynaud's disease
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Raynaud's disease

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HEART & BLOOD

Cardiovascular System

Raynaud's is a condition that causes some areas of your body - such as your fingers, toes, tip of your nose and your ears - to feel numb and cool in response to cold temperatures or stress. It's a disorder of the blood vessels that supply blood to your skin. During a Raynaud's attack, these arteries narrow, limiting blood circulation to affected areas.

You can have Raynaud's without any underlying disease associated with it, in which case it's called Raynaud's disease or primary Raynaud's. Or it can be part of another disease, in which case doctors may refer to it as Raynaud's phenomenon or secondary Raynaud's.

Women are more likely than men are to have the disorder. It's more common in people who live in colder climates.

Self-care

A variety of steps can decrease Raynaud's attacks and help you feel better overall:

  • Quit smoking. Nicotine in cigarettes causes skin temperature to drop by constricting blood vessels, which may lead to an attack. Inhaling second-hand smoke also can aggravate Raynaud's.

  • Exercise. Your doctor may encourage you to exercise regularly, particularly if you have primary Raynaud's. Exercise can increase circulation, among other health benefits.

  • Control stress. Because stress may trigger an attack, learning to recognize and avoid stressful situations may help control the number of attacks.

  • Take care of your hands and feet. If you have Raynaud's, guard your hands and feet from injury. Don't walk barefoot. Take care of your nails to avoid injuring sensitive toes and fingertips. In addition, avoid wearing tight wristbands, rings or footwear that compresses blood vessels in your hands or feet.

  • Avoid workplace triggers. Avoiding tools that vibrate the hand may reduce the frequency of attacks.

What should you do if you're experiencing an attack of Raynaud's? The first and most important action is to warm your hands or feet or any other affected areas of skin. The following steps can help you gently warm your fingers and toes:

  • Move to a warmer area.

  • Place your hands under your armpits.

  • Wiggle your fingers and toes.

  • Make wide circles, or windmills, with your arms.

  • Run warm — but not hot — water over your fingers and toes.

  • Massage your hands and feet.

If a stressful situation triggers an attack, you can help stop the attack by getting out of the stressful situation and relaxing. If you're trained in biofeedback, you can use this technique along with warming your hands or feet in water to help lessen the attack.

Complementary and alternative medicine

Lifestyle changes and supplements that encourage better circulation may be effective alternatives for managing Raynaud's. If you're interested, talk to your doctor about:

  • Biofeedback. Biofeedback — using your mind to control body temperature — may help decrease the severity and frequency of attacks. Biofeedback includes guided imagery to increase the temperature of hands and feet, deep breathing and other relaxation exercises. Your doctor may be able to suggest a therapist who can help you learn biofeedback techniques. Books and tapes also are available on the subject.

  • Niacin. Niacin, also known as vitamin B-3, causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow to skin. This has led scientists to believe that niacin supplements may be useful in treating Raynaud's.

Coping with the stress and nuisance of Raynaud's takes patience and effort. Work with your doctor to manage your condition and maintain a positive attitude. The majority of people with Raynaud's respond to treatment.

Raynaud's disease > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/15/08 02:02 AM