Raynaud's syndrome is a painful condition usually affecting the hands and feet. Raynaud's syndrome is due to poor circulation. The tiny blood vessels in the affected area close down, supplying very little blood to the extremities. Numbness results and on warming, the area may throb painfully.
When a person is exposed to cold, the body's normal response is to slow the loss of heat and preserve its core temperature. To maintain this temperature, the blood vessels that control blood flow to the skin surface move blood from arteries near the surface to veins deeper in the body.
For people who have Raynaud's syndrome, this normal body response is intensified by the sudden spasmodic contractions of the small blood vessels that supply blood to the fingers and toes. The arteries of the fingers and toes may also collapse. As a result, the blood supply to the extremities is greatly decreased, causing a reaction that includes skin discoloration and other changes.
Once the attack begins, a person may experience three phases of skin color changes (white, blue, and red) in the fingers or toes. The order of the changes of color is not the same for all people, and not everyone has all three colors.
Pallor (whiteness) may occur in response to spasm of the arterioles and the resulting collapse of the digital arteries.
Cyanosis (blueness) may appear because the fingers or toes are not getting enough oxygen-rich blood.
The fingers or toes may also feel cold and numb. Finally, as the arterioles dilate and blood returns to the digits, redness may occur. As the attack ends, throbbing and tingling may occur in the fingers and toes. An attack can last from less than a minute to several hours.
When Raynaud's syndrome occurs alone it is known as primary Raynaud's; when it occurs with another related condition it is known as secondary Raynaud's syndrome.
Raynaud's syndrome occurs in up to 5% of typical healthy populations. Over 90% of patients with Raynaud's syndrome are female and under 25 years of age when they first develop the syndrome.
Most people who have Raynaud's syndrome have the primary form (the milder version). A person who has primary Raynaud's syndrome has no underlying disease or associated medical problems. More women than men are affected, and approximately 75% of all cases are diagnosed in women who are between 15 and 40 years old.
Research shows that less than 10% of people who have only vasospastic attacks for several years, without involvement of other body systems or organs, rarely have or will develop a secondary disease later.
Prevention measures are important in primary and secondary Raynaud's syndrome regardless of the severity. Initial simple care:
Keep the body warm, especially the extremities. (Products like FootHuggers and WristHuggers help keep extremities warm.)
Wear warm clothing in colder environments.
Keep room temperatures warm.
Avoid compression of the blood vessels by tight-fitting wristbands, rings or foot wear. Special care of nails is needed to avoid injuring sensitive toes and fingertip.
Smoking (and passive smoking) should be avoided as the chemicals in tobacco smoke can cause blood vessels to constrict and harden the arteries, which further impairs oxygen supply to the extremities.
Patients should guard hands and feet from direct trauma and wounds. Any wounds or infections need early treatment to prevent more serious infections. Avoiding emotional stresses and tools that vibrate the hand may reduce the frequency of attacks.
FootHuggers have no elastic. No tightness around the foot or leg. This helps promote good circulation by not constricting blood vessels in the leg and foot.
FootHuggers help wick moisture away. Heat leaves your body much faster when you are wet. Socks that help evaporation keep your feet warmer.
FootHuggers socks also insulate your feet, helping to capture more body heat, keeping your feet warmer naturally.
FootHuggers are thin enough to wear in all your footwear.