Raynaud's, or Raynaud's phenomenon as it is sometimes called, is a condition characterised by poor circulation. It mainly affects the fingers and toes although it can also affect the nose and ears. It occurs when blood vessels in the extremities go into spasm. This restricts the flow of blood to these areas of the body making them cold and turning them white and lifeless. They then turn blue or purple and finally bright red as the blood rushes back. These areas can also be painful, numb, burning and tingling which can make simple tasks such as fastening buttons or gripping objects difficult.In severe cases, Raynaud's can lead to serious circulatory problems such as gangrene and ulcers.

Raynaud's affects far more women than it does men. Attacks are more prevalent in the winter but they do occur all year round. Raynaud's usually first occurs between the ages of 20 and 40 years.

Causes

Raynaud's can be caused by a number of factors (although in more than half of all cases, there is no identifiable cause):

  • Exposure to cold conditions or a sudden change of temperature.· Stress.· It can be passed down from generation to generation.· Long-term use of vibrating tools such as a pneumatic drill.· Taking certain medicines.· Hormonal changes, especially during puberty
  • As a symptom of an underlying disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Sjögrens syndrome, polymyositis or dermatomyositis

Avoiding An Attack Of Raynaud's

  • Wrap up warm in cold weather.· Wear sensible footwear.· Use heat packs to keep warm.· Do not smoke.· Avoid sudden changes in temperature.· Have plenty of warm drinks
  • Avoid touching cold objects.

Treatment

Wrapping up warm is usually the most effective treatment for Raynaud's disease. Gently rubbing or massaging the affected areas can also help to improve circulation.Vasodilator drugs can help to relax and widen blood vessels so that blood can circulate more freely. These can be issued on prescription.Occasionally, a procedure called sympathectomy is performed, which is when nerve fibres in the affected areas are divided to try and improve circulation. This procedure can be carried out using surgery, laser treatment or injection depending on the part of the body being treated.

In a small percentage of sufferers, the condition improves on its own.

Additional Information

Additional information about Raynaud's can be obtained from the Raynaud's and Scleroderma Association, 112 Crewe Road, Alsager, Cheshire ST7 2JA. Tel: 01270 872776. Fax: 01270 883556. E-mail: webmaster@raynauds.demon.co.uk. Website: http://www.raynauds.demon.co.uk.