It happens every time you stick your hand in the freezer to grab a bag of frozen vegetables. Your fingers suddenly become white and they freeze up, causing tremendous pain all the way from the center of your palm to your finger tips. Your muscles become instantly stiff, and you may not even be able to grip the object that you are reaching for. But just as quickly as you force your hands under warm sink water, the color begins to return to your fingers, and the aching subsides. This is an example of what happens during a Raynaud’s attack, a very painful and common occurrence for millions of people around the world during the cold winder months.
When Raynaud’s occurs, your arteries are going into what is called “vasospasms.” Blood flow is seriously, but temporarily limited. Often, Raynaud’s is a symptom of a more serious disease, such as Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis. It can also be a case of Primary Raynaud’s, and it exists alone without any other more serious medical issues. If you suffer from Raynaud’s it is important to talk to your physician about the cause of this troublesome condition. Sometimes, another medical ailment is the cause and it needs to be treated.
Though Raynaud’s can be extremely, but temporarily painful, there are things that you can do to lessen some of the pain, and even prevent an attack all together.
Because Raynaud’s strikes when the fingers and/or toes come into contact with cold, it is important to cover your feet and hands with warm gloves and socks that allow for circulation, but that create a barrier between your skin and the cold. Even if you are only going grocery shopping it is important to keep your fingers covered and not to wear sandals or flip flops. When Raynaud’s kicks in you can drop things because your hands become almost immobile. It is important keep your fingers and toes warm, as you can also lose balance when walking during a Raynaud’s attack. A very extreme and rare complication of Raynaud’s is gangrene. It does not take as long for a person with Raynaud’s to suffer from frostbite as it does for people who do not suffer from it, so take precaution in the cold, and protect your skin.
Don’t Smoke! For a million other reasons, smoking is terrible for your health. It can be a death sentence, but it can also cause Raynaud’s to be even worse. Want to improve or limit your Raynaud’s attacks? Quit smoking. Smoking constricts blood vessels and makes an attack of Raynaud’s worse.
Move your fingers around. If you can keep blood circulating through your hands, you might be able to stave off an attack. Simply rubbing your hands together or keeping your feet moving can help tremendously.
Avoid cold. If you know that you are going to need to pull that frozen chicken out of your freezer for dinner, let it thaw in the fridge the night before. It may still make your fingers feel uncomfortable to the touch, but you may be able to avoid the worst of a Raynaud’s attack just by avoiding frozen items.
If you are going to be out in the cold during a football game this fall, try and keep covered. Even your face can get involved with Raynaud’s. So it is important to wear scarves along with your gloves.
Stressful situations can also trigger an attack, so try a stress relief system that works for you if you know that you are going into a stressful situation. It is not uncommon for someone to experience balmy hands and sweaty palms when under sudden stress, but someone with Raynaud’s can experience the opposite and their hands can freeze up suddenly with severe pain and discoloration. Remember that this is a risk when you have experienced Raynaud’s before, and try and plan for it during stressful times. Keeping your hands covered during these situations can help as well.
There are, also, medications that can work with the blood vessels, so if your Raynaud’s is severe enough, talk to your doctor. Some alternative therapies include biofeedback and eating more Turmeric and Ginger. Capsules of both spices that aid in circulation can be found in health food and grocery stores.
Raynaud’s is a pain, so take precaution against it during cold weather.