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Two sensations in your feet indicating Raynaud’s disease

Doctor explains how to ease symptoms of Raynaud's Disease

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A normal bodily response to the cold is for blood vessels to narrow, explains the charity Scleroderma and Raynaud’s. Yet, when a person has Raynaud’s disease, the narrowing of blood vessels is “more extreme”. Affecting up to 10 million people in the UK, the fingertips and toes change colour when faced with the cold in winter.

“The fingers and toes may change from white to blue, and then to red,” the charity elaborates.

“A Raynaud’s attack can be very painful, especially as the circulation returns. Raynaud’s can also affect the lips, nose, ears and nipples in the same way.”

Another trigger for a Raynaud’s attack is emotional stress, which can lead to tingling or painful sensations when the circulation returns to the affected area.

What causes Raynaud’s disease?

It’s thought that Raynaud’s disease is caused by disruptions to the way the nervous system controls blood vessels.

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There is evidence Raynaud’s could be an inherited condition, but not much is known about why it develops.

While primary Raynaud’s is considered a “mild condition”, secondary Raynaud’s could be caused by an autoimmune disease such as scleroderma.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition that leads to the hardening of the skin.

Symptoms of scleroderma:

  • Patches of thick, hard skin that may become discoloured
  • Itching
  • Tight skin that makes it harder to move your joints
  • Hard lumps under your skin
  • Tiny blood vessels (spider veins) appearing just beneath your skin.

The charity says: “Secondary Raynaud’s needs more investigation and more careful monitoring for complications like ulceration or sores.”

Ulcers on the fingers and toes can develop, which can lead to an infection.

Known as digital ulcers, they can be “extremely painful” and can make everyday activities “problematic”.

Signs of infection:

  • Increased pain
  • Redness
  • Discharge of pus
  • Swelling.

Half of those who have scleroderma are likely to develop digital ulcers, hence why active surveillance of the condition is needed.

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People who have primary Raynaud’s, however, need not worry about the formation of digital ulcers.

How to tend to Raynaud’s disease

The NHS says that you can “often treat the symptoms yourself by keeping warm”.

In addition to keeping your home warm, and dressing appropriately for the weather outside, the national health service has a few other recommendations.

One of those is to “exercise regularly” as this will help to “improve circulation”.

Another tip is to “try breathing exercises or yoga to help you relax”, thereby minimising feelings of stress, which can be a trigger for Raynaud’s.

The NHS also suggests “eat a healthy, balanced diet”, which will most likely help to prevent an unnecessary build-up of cholesterol.

Too much cholesterol in the arteries can cause them to narrow, which would be more problematic if you have Raynaud’s.

It’s also advisable to not smoke, which would worsen circulation, and to not have too much caffeine, which can be another trigger for Raynaud’s.

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  • Posted on February 1, 2023