Do you dread shaking hands with people because your hands are always cold? Have your fingers or toes ever turned white or blue? If so, you may have a disorder known as Raynaud’s (ray-NOHZ).
According to the Raynaud’s Association, Raynaud’s is a disorder that affects about 5-10% of the U.S. population and is more common in women than in men. Raynaud’s causes vasospasms, a narrowing of the blood vessels in response to cold temperatures or stress. These spasms decrease blood flow to areas such as the fingers and toes, causing them to feel numb and cold.
There are two main types of Raynaud’s:
Primary Raynaud’s (also called Raynaud’s disease) is more common and tends to be less severe than secondary Raynaud’s.
Secondary Raynaud’s (also called Raynaud’s phenomenon) is caused by an underlying disease, condition, or other factor.
Many things can cause or raise your risk of developing secondary Raynaud’s, including:
Although Raynaud’s most commonly affects your fingers and toes, the condition can also affect other areas of your body such as your nose, lips, ears and even nipples. Some common symptoms include:
If you have an attack, it’s important to warm your hands, feet or other affected areas. To gently warm your fingers and toes:
If you have a history of Raynaud’s and develop a sore or infection in one of your affected fingers or toes, contact your doctor right away.
Most people who have primary Raynaud’s can manage the condition with lifestyle changes.
For those with secondary Raynaud’s, your doctor may prescribe medication that will help widen blood vessels and promote circulation. Severe cases of Raynaud’s may require vascular surgery or chemical injections to control your symptoms.
If stress is the cause of your Raynaud’s, focus on reducing stress through meditation, physical activity, listening to music or practicing yoga or tai chi.
If you think you may have Raynaud’s, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor will diagnose primary or secondary Raynaud’s based on your medical history, a physical exam, and test results. If your doctor suspects that another condition, such as an autoimmune or connective tissue disease, is the cause of your Raynaud’s, he or she may order blood tests or refer you to a rheumatologist for further testing.