Referred to as a disease or a phenomenon, this condition involves vasospasm of the small arteries in fingers and toes. Symptoms usually include extreme coldness in the affected digits followed by numbness. Color changes in digital tips progress from normal, to white, to blue, to red as blood flow returns. Episodes are linked with exposure to cold and are sometimes triggered by stress. The condition is fairly widespread, affecting 5-10 percent of the population. It is most prevalent in women.
Although there are different types of Raynaud’s, the most common is Primary Raynaud’s and is not considered dangerous. Secondary Raynaud’s may be linked to systemic issues that can be diagnosed by a rheumatologist, these cases are less prevalent. In any case, if affected digits develop ulcers medical attention should be sought.
While causes and cures are not well understood, the following basic precautions can minimize the frequency and severity of episodes.
- Dress warmly in cold weather, and wear both a hat and mittens.
- In cold environments, e.g. as the freezer section of a grocery store, wear gloves or mittens.
- Use hand and foot warmers, available in many sporting goods stores.
- Carry cold drinks in insulated glasses or mugs.
- Don’t smoke.
- Pump your shoulders and elbows to increase circulation quickly.
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