Raynaud’s Syndrome can be a source of great discomfort, as any sufferer will tell you. A condition characterised by blotchy, discoloured extremities, tingling and pain in the affected areas, as well as numbness and spasming. Raynaud’s Syndrome (or Syndrome Raynaud) is very similar to (and is often confused with) Raynaud’s Disease, and Raynaud’s Phenomenon, but differs with regard to what causes it. Raynaud’s Syndrome tends to be caused by prolonged expsoure to vibrating tools and other objects – construction workers who spend a lot of time working with pneumatic drills, for example, are regular sufferers of Raynaud’s Syndrome.
By contrast, Raynaud’s Disease refers to a collection of similar symptoms, whose cause is not always clear. In around 10% of cases of sufferers will also go on to develop a secondary condition as a result of Raynaud’s. The third term you may hear in reference to this illness is Raynaud’s Phenomenon – the same set of symptoms, although these are caused by the presence of another illness or condition – although this is a rarer occurrence. The list of medical disorders that can contribute to the development of Raynaud’s is predominantly populated with autoimmune diseases and disorders that directly attack bloodvessels. This list includes lupus, scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis.
How Will Raynaud’s Syndrome Affect Me?
Raynaud’s Syndrome and its related conditions can impact a patient’s life in a variety of ways Depending on the severity of the illness, this impact can be relatively light, or can pose a real problem to your day-to-day life. The majority of the illness’ resultant discomfort is prickling pain and numbness, which comes intermittently. These symptoms can be exacerbated by prolonged exposure to cold weather, being hit or aggressively shaken, or vibration.
As a result, sufferers may have to adjust their quality of life, or how they spend their time, particularly during the winter. Spending time outside in cold weather, or failing to insulate extremities sufficiently, can lead to hours of irritation and pain.
How Can I Treat It?
There are a number of medications and therapies regularly prescribed for treatment; some more effective than others. Prevention is also helpful when dealing with Raynaud’s – as with any preventable condition – and the following should be avoided in the interests of not aggravating the disorder.
As mentioned above, protection from cold, vibration and unnecessary impacts are very important Wearing thick socks or gloves, depending on the areas affected most, and avoiding extended periods of time spent outdoors will help, as will avoiding such events as live music performances where your hands or feet are likely to be jostled accidentally.
Emotional stress has also been found to play a part in preventing (or at least lessening the effects of) Raynaud’s Syndrome, and so activities like meditation can prove beneficial. You should also avoid medications that will further constrict your blood vessels – medication for angina and high blood pressure and oral contraceptive pills can both be problematic. Even smoking should be avoided by Raynaud’s sufferers, as nicotine causes vasoconstriction.
Arguably the most effective treatment is a connective tissue manipulation, carried out by a trained physiotherapist. As the discolouration of the extremities that characterises Raynaud’s is brought on by poor blood circulation to the affected areas, a gentle massage of the connective tissues that are restricting blood flow can stimulate vasodilation, easing the sufferer’s discomfort. Connective tissue manipulation has been shown to reduce both the frequency and the duration of spasms in the hands and feet, and continued treatments have demonstrated a clear reduction in the symptoms of Raynaud’s.
In the most severe cases, a sympathectomy can be considered – this surgical procedure involves the severing of the nerves that give the command for blood vessels to vasoconstrict. This is only to be considered in the most extreme instances of the disorder, however.
In order to best avoid aggravation of Raynaud’s, it is best to keep hands and feet warm, and avoid long periods of time spent outside. Smoking will cause problems for Raynaud’s sufferers in the long term, as will oral contraceptives and blood pressure medication – if you regularly use either of these and suspect that you might have developed Raynaud’s, make an appointment with your doctor, to avoid accidental aggravation of the condition.
If you are diagnosed, arrange a physiotherapy consultation. Connective tissue manipulation is a tried and tested method of alleviating suffering brought on by the disease, and is a highly effective alternative to surgical procedures that you can also take into consideration for the treatment of the illness.
Dan Hart is an experienced physiotherapy writer, and has been for several years. For additional information on Raynaud’s Syndrome, visit www.londonphysiocentre.co.uk.