Raynaud’s disease is a medical condition wherein
the blood vessels spams causing a blockage in the flow of blood to the nose, ears, fingers and toes upon exposure to cold temperatures or strong emotions. This condition is specifically called PrimaryRaynaud’s (or Raynaud’s disease), wherein there is no underlying disease that causes the condition. In contrast, secondary Raynaud’s (or Raynaud’s phenomenon) occurs as a result of other conditions, which will be discussed further later. It commonly affects women over the age of 30.
Raynaud’s disease is usually easy to detect as its characteristics are slightly similar to frostbite, however, they are two different occurrences. The latter refers to damage to the body brought about by freezing and requires medical emergency. Frostbite may lead to Raynaud’s disease.Raynaud’s disease and frostbite produce similar symptoms that include discoloration of the extremities and facial features.First aid treatment for both Raynaud’s disease and frostbite are also alike.
Causes of Raynaud’s Disease
The exact cause of Raynaud’s disease is still unknown. However, what is known is that it is brought about by the spasms of blood vessels. The following are the causes of Raynaud’s disease:
- Primary Raynaud’s disease
- Exposure to cold temperatures
- Strong emotions or stress
- Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon
- Arterial diseases such as atherosclerosis
- Certain medications including amphetamines, specific beta-blockers, cancer drugs, etc.
- Autoimmune illnesses such as, lupus, scleroderma, etc.
- Repeated injury to the digits
Symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease
The symptoms of Raynaud’s disease will depend on the occurrence, length and intensity of the blood vessel spasms. The common symptoms of Raynaud’s disease include:
- The digits initially turn white due to the reduced blood supply, which then turns blue due to lack of oxygen. The digits turn red again after the flushing phenomenon when the blood returns to the digits.*
- Cold digits, nose and ear
- Numbness or prickly feeling
*May not necessarily affect all individuals in this particular order and may involve one or all digits
First Aid Treatment and Management for Raynaud’s Disease
In case of an attack of Raynaud’s disease, the following tips are recommended:
- If one is a cold area, transfer to a warmer area. Keep the digits warm by placing the hands under the underarms and wiggling the fingers and toes.
- Run warm water over the digits. Do not give hot water to the affected digits as it may cause more damage.
- If it is caused by strong emotions or stress, leave the current situation and relax.
- Massage the hands and feet.
- If caused by frostbite, administer proper first aid.
Prevention of Raynaud’s Disease
It is important to try and decrease the amount and intensity of the attacks to avoid permanent tissue damage. After a proper diagnosis is made, it is necessary to try and prevent Raynaud’s disease. The following hints do not guarantee complete avoidance of Raynaud’s disease but may help reduce risks:
- During cold weathers, dress warmly. Wear appropriate winter clothes during winter time and whenever necessary.
- Avoid medications that can exacerbate symptoms, such as the drugs mentioned above in causes.
- Avoid smoking.
- Avoid caffeine as they may narrow the blood vessels.
- Create a regular exercise schedule and follow it regularly.
- Find a way to manage stress. Recognize what causes stress and avoid these circumstances.
Disclaimer: This article should not serve as medical diagnosis or treatment. To learn proper treatment and management of Raynaud’s disease and other temperature-related emergencies, enrol in First Aid Courses.