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Raynaud's: More than Just Cold Hands & Feet

Have you ever felt like you just couldn't get warm, no matter what you did? We come across many people who have white fingertips and toes that are cold to the touch despite bundling up and using space heaters. If the symptoms are persistent, the underlying condition may be Raynaud's, a circulatory disorder that some call a disease, syndrome, or a phenomenon. This post will help you understand more about the types of Raynaud's, its causes, risk factors, and treatment.[1]
Raynaud's Disease diagram

Source: NHLBI

What Causes Raynaud's?
Raynaud’s is a disorder where small arteries in a person’s extremities are narrowed, restricting normal blood flow and causing them to become temporarily cold and turn white or blue. When blood flow returns, a person may feel sensations like numbness, tingling, or throbbing. Raynaud’s normally occurs in the fingers or toes, but may also be found in the ears, tongue, lips, or nipples. Normally, the severity of Raynaud’s doesn’t cause long-term health difficulties, but in severe cases, the lack of circulation to extremities can lead to sores or gangrene.[1]

Most people with Raynaud’s have primary Raynaud’s, meaning there is no other associated condition and the cause is unknown. This type of Raynaud’s is commonly called primary Raynaud’s or Raynaud’s disease.

Secondary Raynaud’s is also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon or Raynaud’s syndrome. It is associated with another disease or injury and is likely to be more severe. Related diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma.[2]

What are the Risk Factors of Raynaud's?

Because the cause of Raynaud's is often unknown, risk factors can be difficult to identify. Here are several possible risk factors commonly associated with Raynaud's:

  • cold climate
  • stress
  • family history
  • smoking
  • caffeine consumption
  • sex: more common in females
  • age: 15-40
  • repetitive motion
  • disease
  • injury
  • certain medications that restrict blood vessels
  • exposure to certain chemicals (i.e. vinyl chloride)
  • blood disorders
  • thyroid disorders
  • arterial disorders[2]
What are the Treatment Options for Raynaud's?
There is no cure for Raynaud’s, but learning about your personal risk factors is a great way to learn how to control it. For example, if you live in a cold climate, bundle up. Smoking and caffeine consumption can cause an attack, so cessation of smoking or decreasing caffeine might help. If the medications you take are known to constrict blood vessels, talk to your doctor about your options.

In more severe cases, prescription drugs may be prescribed by your doctor. According to Dr. Fredrick Wigley, a rheumatologist and professor at Johns Hopkins, “All the medications now being used for Raynaud’s are off-label, meaning they’re approved by the F.D.A. for other problems but not for Raynaud’s.” Some medications used for blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, and depression are used to treat Raynaud’s. Dr. Wigley also says that surgery is used in some cases when medications don’t work. However, he advises that “None of the drugs is as potent as staying warm, and that does work for the majority of people with Raynaud’s.”[3]

Though not an F.D.A.-cleared indication for its use, the NormaTec PCD has been prescribed off-label for patients with Raynaud’s who have reported significant improvement in their symptoms with routine use. Check our blog often for more updates on Raynaud’s research and treatment, peripheral vascular disease treatment, and the many ways in which restoring healthy circulation can be achieved with a pneumatic compression device.

Your NormaTec nurse,
Susan Rajotte, RN





Please note: The content contained in this post is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your physician. 

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