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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Raynaud disease is a disorder that affects blood circulation, usually in the hands and feet. This disorder causes the arteries (blood vessels) that carry blood to your fingers, toes, ears, or nose to tighten. This is often triggered by cold or emotional stress. The decrease in blood flow causes lack of oxygen and changes in skin color. Over time, ulcers or gangrene (tissue death) may develop if frequent or severe attacks are not prevented. Raynaud disease can be primary or secondary. Primary means it has no clear cause. Secondary means it has a cause and may be related to another medical condition you have.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
- Avoid putting too much pressure on your fingertips, such as typing or playing the piano. This kind of pressure may cause your blood vessels to narrow and trigger an attack.
- Check your feet and hands daily for numb areas, thinning or thickening skin, black spots, cracks, brittle nails, or ulcers.
- Keep your skin clean and dry to prevent an infection. Use lotion that contains lanolin on your hands and feet to keep the skin from drying or cracking.
Prevent a Raynaud disease attack:
- Avoid cold temperatures when possible: Wear gloves, scarves, or other winter garments during the winter months or before you go into cold rooms.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine: Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. A drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor. Try drinking decaffeinated coffee, tea, or soda. Ask your caregiver for more information about alcohol and caffeine.
- Use caution with medicines: Talk to your primary healthcare provider before you use medicines that may trigger an attack. These include certain medicines used for treating high blood pressure, headaches, cancer, or colds.
- Exercise regularly: This prevents narrowing of the blood vessels and increases blood flow in your body.
- Learn to manage stress: Stress may trigger an attack. Try new ways to relax, such as deep breathing, meditation, or biofeedback. Biofeedback is a way to control how your body reacts to stress or pain.
- Stop smoking: If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking causes blood vessels to narrow and may trigger an attack. Ask your primary healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.
What to do during a Raynaud disease attack:
- Get inside to warm yourself.
- Wiggle your fingers or toes, or swing your arms around to increase circulation. Massage the affected parts.
- Place your hands under your armpits or run warm water over the affected area. Do not place the affected part in direct contact with hot water or a hot water bottle. The affected parts could be injured if they are not able to feel that the water is hot.
- Get yourself out of stressful situations if possible. Deep breathing, meditation, or biofeedback may help decrease stress.
Contact your primary healthcare provider if:
- You have new symptoms since your last appointment.
- Your symptoms prevent you from doing your daily activities.
- You need help to quit smoking.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have many attacks even if you prevent cold, stress, or other triggers.
- You have pain in your fingers or toes that does not go away or gets worse.
- You have sores or ulcers on the tips of your fingers or toes that do not heal.
- You have black spots on your fingers or toes.
- Your hands or feet remain cold or discolored even after you warm them.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.