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February: Raynaud's awareness month

With February being statistically the coldest month of the year it is Raynaud's Awareness month

 

Raynaud's is a condition thought to affect up to ten million people in the UK and 20% of the population worldwide.  Although most common among woman in their 20's and 30's, Raynaud's can affect anyone from babies to the elderly.  The majority of people go undiagnosed for many years as they put it simply down to “cold hands and feet” not realising there is an underlying condition there. 

 

What is Raynaud's?

Raynaud's is a condition that affects the small blood vessels in the extremities (hands, feet, nose and ears all most commonly affected) making them overly sensitive to changes in temperature, stress and anxiety.  The most common trigger is cold conditions.  The vessels below the skin go into spasm, temporarily restricting the blood flow causing a change in colour and drop in temperature of the tissue.  Firstly turning a white colour, the area will become cold and often numb before turning blue. 

 

 

 

As the blood flow returns the skin will become warmer and red in colour causing pain or a pins and needle type sensation.  These symptoms can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and can vary in severity of pain. 

 

Types of Raynaud's, Primary or Secondary?

There are two types of Raynaud's, the first, Primary Raynaud's Phenomenon, is the most common with Secondary as a result of having another associated health condition such as autoimmune diseases Lupus and Rhumatoid Arthritis.

 

What Causes Raynaud's?

Primary, is unknown in its cause but 1 in 10 diagnosed go on to develop one of the conditions associated with Secondary Raynaud's at a later stage.  It is thought that in Primary Raynaud's there is a disruption to how the nervous system controls the blood vessels.  The reason however remains unclear.  There is also evidence to support that Primary can be inherited through families.  Secondary Raynaud's develops as a result of another health condition such as:

 

•  Rhumatoid Arthritis – a condition causing joint pain and swelling

•  Lupus – causes joint pain, fatigue and changes to the skin and vital organs

•  Sjogrens syndrome – the immune system attacks the sweat glands and tear ducts

•  Scleroderma – a condition that causes hardening and thickening of the skin

•  Infections – such as Hep B and C

•  Cancer  - associated with those which affect the bone marrow, immune system and blood

•  Illegal drug use – certain drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines

•  Smoking

•  Injury or overuse – common after an injury or in musicians who use their fingers to play

•  Drug therapy / medicines – certain medicines are associated with increased risk

•  Vibration work – common in those who work with vibrating tools

 

 

Risks Associated with Raynaud's and Treatments

As the condition restricts blood flow to the area, risk of ulceration, scarring and in extreme cases gangrene are increased.  For most patients who are well managed, severe problems are uncommon and most live a relatively normal life. 

 

The most cases it is possible to manage the symptoms of Raynaud's themselves by avoiding cold weather conditions, keeping extremities warm with gloves, hats and thick socks.  There are several socks and gloves on the market aimed at those with Raynaud's which retain heat and avoid attacks.  It is also advised using relaxation techniques to reduce stress and anxiety can help.  Smokers are advised to stop as this may be helping to trigger attacks.  Stopping smoking will help to improve blood flow, this can also be said of caffeine such as tea, coffee, energy and soft drinks.   A regular exercise routine will also help boost the circulation and reduce risk.  If symptoms continue to get worse your GP or specialist may advise a drug which can help. 

 

For more information or patient support and advice please visit the Raynaud's and Scleroderma Association at: http://www.raynauds.org.uk/loveyourgloves 

 

You'll also find free knitting patterns for at:

http://knitmeasong.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/glovelies-free-pattern.html if you'd like to get involved!

 

Image source :  www.medicinenet.com

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