- Researchers are getting closer to discovering what causes Raynaud’s disease.
- Bundling up, running your hands under warm water, and staying dry can help.
- READ MORE: Finally a cure for chronic cold hands? Study finds cause of Raynaud’s
Last month, science took another step toward uncovering the causes of a chronic cold hand condition that affects hundreds of millions of people around the world.
The study found that changes in two genes were responsible for Raynaud’s syndrome, a chronic disease that makes it difficult for the blood supply to reach the fingers and toes.
In the meantime, healthcare experts recommend a number of quick remedies that can provide at least some relief when the condition’s noticeable symptoms (cold hands and feet) appear.
While health care experts have identified risk factors and medical or lifestyle problems related to the syndrome, until now no known genetic cause has been discovered.
Raynaud’s disease, which is estimated to affect between two and five percent of people, causes miniature spasms in blood vessels, cutting off the blood supply to the fingers and toes.
Run warm water over your hands and feet.
When a Raynaud’s attack occurs, warm water can soothe muscles and improve circulation.
This is because warm water is a vasodilator, meaning it expands blood vessels, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Physiotherapy Science.
However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) warns against using hot water because it can burn the skin or numb the extremities, making it difficult to feel relief.
Run your hands under a hot tap and then put on a few extra layers of clothing to try to retain heat.
Swing your arms in circles over your body.
The National Institutes of Health also recommends swinging your arms in a windmill pattern to improve blood flow to your arms and hands.
This can be done when you are standing or going for a walk.
Similarly, the Mayo Clinic also suggests wiggling your fingers and toes or placing your hands under your armpits, which are naturally warm and help keep body heat close to you.
At the first sign of Raynaud’s attack, reach for gloves or a pair of wool socks to quickly warm your body.
Alberta Health Services in Canada suggests opting for gloves instead of gloves because gloves keep your fingers together, which helps increase body heat.
However, while you’re indoors, try fingerless gloves so you can type or perform other tasks that require the use of your hands.
There are several fingerless gloves on Amazon and other retailers designed for offices, so if you don’t mind a few funny looks, this might be the way to go.
And although it may seem counterintuitive, experts recommend avoiding tight clothing because it can restrict blood flow.
Stay away from air conditioning
The Mayo Clinic advises patients with Raynaud’s disease to avoid rapid changes in temperature, such as going quickly from a hot place to a cold place. This could be walking into the produce aisle of a grocery store on a hot summer day.
If you have to go into air conditioning, wear warm clothing to prevent your body temperature from changing too quickly.
The American College of Rheumatology also suggests not keeping the air conditioning setting too high during the summer.
Go for a walk
If the weather permits, going for a short walk can provide some warmth to cold hands and feet.
This is because walking increases your heart rate. As your heart rate increases, your blood vessels expand.
In turn, this improves circulation and allows more oxygen to flow through your hands and feet.
What is Raynaud’s disease?
Raynaud’s condition, caused by drops in temperature or increased stress, causes the blood vessels in the fingers and toes to constrict, cutting off the blood supply.
It can also affect the small arteries in the nose, ears, and tongue.
Raynaud’s disease usually causes the fingers or toes to become white and numb.
Then, as blood flow returns, they turn blue and eventually red, accompanied by a burning sensation. Attacks can last from a few minutes to an hour.
Nine out of ten cases occur in women and the majority of those who suffer from it suffer their first attack before the age of 40.
Although attacks peak in the cold winter months, symptoms can be triggered by everyday tasks such as removing food from the freezer, air conditioning, or even stress, all of which cause blood vessels to constrict.
Most patients can cope by bundling up warmly, although some develop painful weeping ulcers that can become infected.
Although Raynaud’s disease is common, only a small number of patients develop a more serious connective tissue disease called scleroderma.
It can be disabling and life-threatening, so it is important to diagnose it early so that any complications of the condition can be treated appropriately.
Raynaud’s disease has a simple treatment and can be temporarily cured with a medication called nifedipine, which relaxes the heart muscles and blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.