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Don’t let Jack Frost curtail your winter activities– with Raynaud’s finger!

“Raynaud's phenomenon is a common disorder in which the small blood vessels in the extremities are over-sensitive to changes in temperature”.

Raynaud’s occurs your blood vessels go into a temporary spasm which blocks the flow of blood. The fingers are the most commonly affected but it can involve other parts of the body such as toes, nose, face etc. Firstly, the fingers go cold and white as the small blood vessels in the fingers narrow (constrict), causing the fingers to loose sensation. Then the fingers can go a bluish colour, as the oxygen is used up quickly from the blood in the narrowed blood vessels. Finally, the fingers go bright red, because blood vessels open up again (dilate) and the blood flow returns. This may cause tingling, throbbing, and pain (which can be severe in some cases).

The majority of us develop Primary Raynaud's which occurs spontaneously without any underlying condition being present and is often fairly mild. Secondary Raynaud's is less common and is associated with underlying diseases such as scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Who is affected?

Raynaud’s affects people in all walks of life, both in their occupation to affecting their sport and recreation. Anyone that works outside such as builders, road workers, gardeners etc. can struggle in the winter months with Raynaud’s. Similarly those people using hand held vibrating equipment known in this instance as Hand –Arm Vibration Syndrome can also suffer.

Also if you are engaging in outdoor winter sports you can also have a problem with Raynaud’s in activities such as skiing, winter running, trekking, Nordic walking, cycling etc.

How can I cope with it?

Our top tips to manage Raynaud’s are:

  • Keep the hands and feet warm. Warm gloves, socks and shoes are essential when outside in cool weather.

  • Keep the whole body warm, Symptoms are less likely to occur if the entire body warm. For example, wear hats and scarves in addition to warm clothes.

  • Buy portable heat packs and battery heated gloves and socks.

  • Try not to touch cold objects. For example, use a towel or gloves when removing food from the freezer or working with cold food.

  • Regular exercise is recommended by many experts. Exercise the hands and feet frequently to improve the circulation.

  • Smoking can make symptoms worse, by causing the blood vessels to narrow.

  • Avoid Caffeine (in tea, coffee, cola and in some painkillers) triggers symptoms in some people.

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