February – Raynaud’s Awareness Month. #RaiseYourHands #charity @WeAreSRUK

safe_image-phpRaynaud’s is a common condition affecting around 1 in 6 people. In people who have Raynaud’s, the small blood vessels in the extremities are over-sensitive to changes in temperature or stress. This causes a Raynaud’s attack. Raynaud’s is named after Dr Maurice Raynaud, the man who first described it in 1862.

Raynaud’s is a common condition affecting up to 10 million people in the UK. If you often have cold hands or feet, could you be living with this condition? – If you are experiencing painful or frequent symptoms then it is worthwhile visiting your GP. A blood test may be done to look for antinuclear antibodies or to measure erythrocyte sedimentation rate, which may indicate autoimmune problems or elevated inflammation.

When your body is exposed to cold temperatures, the extremities, such as your fingers and toes, lose heat. This is because the small blood vessels under the skin spasm, slowing down the blood supply that is helping to preserve your body’s core temperature.

In people with Raynaud’s, the sensitive blood vessels overreact to cold temperatures and become narrower than usual, significantly restricting the blood flow.

Symptoms can be triggered by mildly cool weather, getting something out of the freezer, or running your hands under a cold tap. Strong emotions such as stress or anxiety may also trigger symptoms.

There are two types of Raynaud’s: Primary and Secondary

In primary Raynaud’s (also called Raynaud’s disease), the cause isn’t known. Primary Raynaud’s is more common and tends to be less severe than secondary Raynaud’s. In most cases there is no known cause (more than 9 in 10 cases). The small blood vessels in the fingers and toes just appear to be more sensitive than normal to cool temperatures. There is no other underlying disease.  Women are affected much more often than men. It usually first develops before the age of 30. The outlook for people with primary Raynaud’s is usually good. Most people have mild symptoms that do not interfere much with daily life.

Primary Raynaud’s phenomenon is often so mild a person never seeks treatment.

Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon is more serious and complex. It is caused when diseases reduce blood flow to fingers and toes, and also attacks lips, nose, nipples, ears as well as fingers and toes and very painful.

Secondary Raynaud’s is caused by an underlying medical issue. This condition is less common and tends to be more serious. Causes of secondary Raynaud’s include:

  • Diseases of the arteries – atherosclerosis (a build-up of plaque in blood vessels)
  • Diseases of the connective tissue – most people with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disease affecting glands).
  • Raynaud’s is not a life-threatening condition. However, if symptoms worsen and blood supply is substantially reduced for prolonged periods of time, fingers and toes can become deformed.
  • If oxygen is completely cut off from the area, skin ulcers and gangrenous tissue can develop. Both of these complications are difficult to treat, and in the worst cases, may require amputation.

UK Charity SRUK say:

If you call the helpline, the volunteer that you talk to may have Scleroderma and/or Raynaud’s but as we know everyone is different and the manifestations from person to person are varied and complex. Therefore, we refrain from swapping backgrounds and symptoms’ but listen positively to your issues and try to help you with your particular enquiry. After all the call is about you, not us.

SRUK Helpline 0800 311 2756

(SRUK), the only UK Charity dedicated to improving the lives of people with Scleroderma and Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Keep warm. It is important not only to keep the extremities warm, but also to avoid chilling any part of the body. Remember, a drop in the body’s core temperature triggers the attack. Shifting temperature (for example, rapidly moving from 90 degrees outside to a 70-degree air-conditioned room) and damp rainy weather are to be avoided. In cold weather, pay particular attention to dressing. Several layers of loose clothing, socks, hats, and gloves or mittens are recommended. A hat is important because a great deal of body heat is lost through the scalp. Keep feet warm and dry. Some people find it helpful to wear mittens and socks to bed during the winter. Chemical warmers, such as small heating pouches that can be placed in pockets, mittens, boots, or shoes, can give added protection during long periods outdoors.

In warm weather, be aware that air conditioning also can trigger attacks. Setting the thermostat at a higher temperature or wearing a sweater indoors can help prevent an attack. Some people find it helpful to use insulated drinking glasses and to put on gloves before handling frozen or refrigerated foods.

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