- Wednesday, 01 February 2012
Although the cold weather has taken some time this winter to hit the UK, it can cause a painful and extreme reaction for thousands of people whose fingers and toes are adversely affected by the cold, causing them to change colour.
It’s a condition called Raynaud’s syndrome which is being highlighted by the UK’s fourth largest medical charity, Arthritis Research UK, as a potential hazard in cold weather. Anybody can get Raynaud's, but it is most common in young women and teenage girls.
This reaction is caused by the blood supply to fingers and in some cases toes and the nose being suddenly reduced, making them change colour. It can be very painful and create a tingling sensation when this happens.
There are three stages which are usually noticeable for those with Raynaud's syndrome as their fingers and toes change colour when exposed to cold conditions, as they go:
• white: as the blood supply to the fingers is reduced
• blue: as the blood in the fingers becomes short of oxygen, and finally
• red: as the blood comes rushing back when the hands become warm again
Spokesman for Arthritis Research UK, Professor Chris Denton, who is Professor of Experimental Rheumatology at the Royal Free and University College Medical School, London commented, “Raynaud's syndrome can be particularly painful in winter for those afflicted by it. There are two types, primary and secondary.”
“In primary Raynaud's syndrome, your fingers return to normal after each attack. Attacks can be a painful nuisance but they won't damage your fingers.”
“Secondary Raynaud's syndrome is associated with another condition such as lupus or scleroderma and can be much more severe, potentially causing finger ulcers or even gangrene of the fingertip. If the colour doesn't quickly return to normal or if you develop ulcers on your fingers or toes, you should see your doctor immediately.”
In addition to the medical treatment which may be prescribed by for those with Raynaud’s, self- help can make a difference through some simple changes to lifestyle:
This cannot be over-emphasised. Wear warm gloves, socks and a hat when you are outdoors in cold weather. Warm your hands before you put the gloves on. Keep your body warm too by dressing suitably for the cold weather. Electrically heated gloves and portable heating aids can be very helpful.
Smoking can damage the circulation, so we strongly recommend giving it up if you have Raynaud's.
Regular exercise helps the circulation and, if you're outside on a cold day, keeping active will help you to keep warm.
Diet and nutrition
There is no particular food or diet that has been proved to help, but we would always recommend a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
For more information please visit www.arthritisresearchuk.org or call 0300 790 0400 to order your free patient information booklet on Raynaud’s Phenomenon.
Help out a great cause Raynauds Awareness Month February 2013 - 28 January 2013