February is Raynaud’s Month
Raynaud’s phenomenon (disease) is caused by episodic vasospasm and ischemia of the extremities (especially the fingers and toes) in response to a fall in temperature even taking a cold milk bottle out of the fridge or a cool wind on a hot beach or an emotional stimulus. This response results in a characteristic colour change in the extremities from white, to blue, to red. In about 89% of people, Raynaud’s occurs in direct response to a stimulus and there is no known underlying cause. In the other 11%, it results from an underlying condition, most commonly a connective tissue disease such as systemic sclerosis, mixed connective tissue disease.
Around 3-12.5% of men and 6-20% of women have reported symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon in non-population based studiesThe prevalence varies widely across countries and populations, but is higher in colder climates. In women, it is often associated with a family history, oestrogen exposure, and emotional stress.In men, smoking and hand arm vibration syndrome are more commonly implicated.
There are few conventional treatments on offer. Lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise and stopping smoking, and reducing exposure to triggers (e.g. cold, emotional stress) can help. Nifedipine is currently the only drug licensed in the UK for use in Raynaud’s phenomenon: – it doesn’t cure Raynaud’s, but can help to relieve the symptoms. Nifedipine is a calcium channel blocker – a type of medication that encourages the blood vessels to widen.
Traditional five element acupuncture: – can try to improve circulation and reducing anxiety and stress caused by Raynaud’s, and may help the medication be more effective. This can often make a significant improvement to living with Raynaud’s.
- Keep your whole body warm, especially your hands and feet. Wear gloves and warm footwear in cold weather.
- If you smoke, stop. …
- Exercise regularly, as this helps to improve your circulation and reduce stress levels, yoga, walks and breathing exercises.
- Try to minimise your stress levels – have traditional five element acupuncture!