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Raynaud’s Awareness Month: What is Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

Raynaud’s Awareness Month: What is Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

February is Raynaud’s Awareness Month and we’re here to raise awareness of Raynaud’s so that you know what the signs and symptoms to look out for are.

Up to 10 million people in the UK have Raynaud’s, it’s a common phenomenon that causes blood vessels in the extremities to narrow and almost completely shut down. As a result of this, fingers or toes turn from white to blue and then red as the blood returns.

A Raynaud’s attack can be painful and very uncomfortable, it can make simple everyday tasks difficult, like zipping up a jacket or buttoning a shirt.

Primary and Secondary Raynaud’s

There are two types of Raynaud’s, primary and secondary. The most common form of Raynaud’s is primary, this is when there’s no cause and the condition occurs by itself. Secondary Raynaud’s is associated with an underlining autoimmune condition like scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

What are the signs and symptoms of Raynaud’s?

One of the tell-tail signs of Raynaud’s is the extreme reaction to the cold or any slight change in temperature when your extremities (fingers, hands, or toes) change colour and cause pain.

You may find one or two fingers go numb and turn a white or bluish colour before going red.

Top 5 signs to look out for:

  • Cold fingers, hands, toes, ears, nose and/or lips
  • Numb sensation or tingling in the affected area
  • Pain or stinging when the skin begins to warm up
  • Colour changes in the skin when cold (white, blue then red)

Getting diagnosed

You should always see a GP if:

  • You’re worried about any symptoms, especially if they get worse or affect your daily life.
  • Your over 30 and experience symptoms of Raynaud’s for the first time
  • Your child is under 12 and experiences symptoms of Raynaud’s

Raynaud’s can usually be diagnosed after a series of tests and a thorough examination of your history and symptoms.

Water Test

Your GP would place your hands in cold water to check for any reaction associated with Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Blood Test

A blood test can help your GP determine whether you have an underlining health condition that is causing your symptoms, eg. Lupus.

Treatment

There is no known cure for Raynaud’s, however, there are various treatments that can help you manage your symptoms effectively to prevent an attack.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Even a slight change in temperature can bring on a Raynaud’s attack, so always make sure you’re prepared.

  • Always wear gloves when you’re going out in the cold and keep a spare pair in your bag in case you forget or lose a pair.
  • Keep your home warm
  • Exercise regularly to promote good circulation
  • Relax and take your time over things, stress can trigger an attack.

Medication

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your GP may be able to prescribe you with medication to improve your symptoms by widening blood vessels and promote circulation.

  • Calcium channel blockers – helps relax and open small blood vessels in your hands and feet. This drug helps reduce the number of attacks and can offer relief for those who suffer from ulcers on fingers or toes.
  • Vasodilators – drugs which help relax blood vessels including nitroglycerin cream which can be applied to the base of the fingers to help ulcers.

Medical procedures

In serious cases, some procedures can help relieve symptoms of Raynaud’s, these include:

  • Nerve surgery - through small incisions in the affected hands or feet, a doctor strips away the tiny nerves around the blood vessels which interrupts their exaggerated response.
  • Chemical injection – local anaesthetics or Botox blocks sympathetic nerves in affected hands or feet but this is temporary and you may need additional injections if symptoms return or get worse.

What support is out there?

Scleroderma & Raynaud's UK (SRUK) is the only UK charity dedicated to improving the lives of people with Scleroderma and Raynaud’s phenomenon. They want to improve awareness and understanding of these conditions, to support those affected, and ultimately, to find a cure.

Their aim is to reach out to every single person who has a Scleroderma or Raynaud’s diagnosis, providing them with the information and support they need. By creating connections between people with the conditions and professionals, we have built a motivated community that shares knowledge and support, works in partnership on research projects, and speaks up about Scleroderma and Raynaud’s.

If you, or someone you know, are displaying any of the following symptoms, which could be a sign of Raynaud’s, take SRUK’s online test today at www.sruk.co.uk/testme

For more information about Raynaud’s and Scleroderma please visit: www.sruk.co.uk/

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