Raynaudís syndrome is a condition where small blood vessels narrow (vasospasm) and temporarily restrict blood flow to the extremities. The tissue turns white with lack of blood flow and then blue from lack of oxygen and then red when the blood rushes back into the tissue. It happens most commonly in the fingers. Scientists are not sure why the blood vessels of people with Raynaudís tend to spasm and constrict in response to cold temperatures and stress. However, the condition is more common among women, as well as people who live in colder climates or have a family history of Raynaudís.
Secondary Raynaudís, often called Raynaudís phenomenon, is the more severe form of this condition. It is believed to be caused by an underlying disease or health condition, like connective tissue disorders or other environmental and lifestyle factors. It is associated with atherosclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, thyroid disorders and autoimmune conditions like scleroderma, lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis. It can also be related to other things like smoking, repeated injury and use of drugs like birth control, amphetamines, some cancer medications and certain beta-blockers.
Although symptoms vary from person to person, Raynaudís typically causes the affected body parts to turn white and then blue, in response to stress or exposure to cold. An attack can last a few minutes to several hours. Once blood flow resumes, the affected area may turn red and throb before returning to its usual color. While Raynaudís isnít always uncomfortable, people with secondary Raynaudís often experience stinging or burning sensations and can develop painful ulcerations or even gangrene.
The medical treatment for Raynaudís usually involves taking medications that help to regulate blood flow and avoid the sudden constriction of the blood vessels. Some examples of medications used include nitrates, calcium channel blockers and prostaglandins. Research shows that these drugs often have adverse effects, including headaches and low blood pressure.
Natural strategies aim to reduce the severity and frequency of attacks. The treatment approaches include controlling low body temperature, reducing stress levels and avoiding activities that can trigger reduced blood flow. Supplements including ginkgo, niacin (vitamin B3), and vitamin E have been shown to be helpful. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids and leafy greens can also help. Keeping hands warm in cold weather and reducing and/or managing stress should be a priority. When it comes to supplements and nutrition choices you may need to try using a combination of things to achieve relief.
Acupuncture can be helpful in reducing pain and inflammation and improving joint stiffness in patients with Raynaudís phenomenon. One study involving 33 patients with Raynaudís syndrome found that patients undergoing acupuncture experienced a significant decrease in the frequency of Raynaudís attacks, reduced the number of attacks experienced and decreased the duration of reduced blood flow.
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