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Raynaud's affecting your toes and feet - Do your hands and feet stay cold for a really long time?

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It has finally started to feel like winter in Austin! Are you experiencing REALLY cold toes and feet?

Are you experiencing frequent episodes of poor circulation and discoloration of your toes and feet? It is possible that you may be experiencing Raynaud’s attacks and may be suffering from a condition known as Raynaud’s.

Raynaud’s disorder is separated into two types Primary Raynaud’s (Disease) and Secondary Raynaud’s (Phenomenon). Both types experience frequent episodes (Raynaud’s attacks) of decreased blood flow to the body’s extremities as a result of the constriction (narrowing) of blood vessels in response to a contributing factor, such as cold temperatures or chronic stress.

What to expect during a Raynaud’s attack:

1) Reduced blood flow to your feet initially causes your toes to turn white, followed by a numbing sensation of your toes and feet.

2) If the duration of decreased blood flow persists then your feet are further deprived of oxygenated blood, which causes the skin to turn blue.

3) Once the attack is over, blood vessels dilate and proper blood flow is restored. During restoration of blood flow, your feet will first turn red in color, followed by a tingling sensation which will be accompanied by a needle-like discomfort throughout your feet until the skin has fully regained its normal color and regular blood flow is established.

These attacks can vary in duration and frequency from person to person, but prolonged episodes can be extremely dangerous and result in serious complications, such as Gangrene, Ulcers and in severe cases; Amputation.

Primary Raynaud’s (Disease) is more common amongst the general population, but the origin or cause is unknown.  The main risk factors for Primary Raynaud’s are:

  • Age Typically appears before 30 years of age
  • Cold Climate and Stress – Cold temperatures and Stress are the primary triggers of a Raynaud’s attack.
  • Family History and Gender – You are more at risk for developing Primary Raynaud’s if your family members are affected and women are more at risk than men.  

Secondary Raynaud’s (Phenomenon) is less common amongst the general population and is caused by other factors or underlying conditions that are directly affecting your body. The main risk factors for Secondary Raynaud’s are:

  • Age – Typically appears after 30 years of age.
  • Pre-existing Diseases and Conditions – Such as, Scleroderma, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Atherosclerosis.
  • Improper Care or Injuries – Exposure to Cold Environments, Prolonged Activity and Injuries which Damage Arteries or Nerves.
  • Exposure to Chemicals or Harmful Lifestyle Choices – Working with hazardous chemicals, Incumbent lifestyle, Stress and Smoking.
  • Taking Certain Medications – Such as, Blood pressure medicine, Birth Control Pills and Over-The-Counter Cold and Allergy Medicines.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for those who are affected by either type of Raynaud’s. However, there are Preventative Measures, Lifestyle Choices, and Medications that can be beneficial towards managing the condition.

 

Primary Raynaud’s (Disease) is easier to manage and attacks can be prevented by avoiding certain triggers. Preventive methods include:

  • Protecting your feet from cold temperatures and avoiding stress
  • Avoiding the Major Risk Factors listed above such as, smoking, caffeine and improper foot care
  • Take care of your skin
  • Wear proper footwear and avoid tight socks
  • Eat Healthy, Stretch Daily, and Stay Active!

 

Secondary Raynaud’s (Phenomenon) is more difficult to manage and more severe for the patient. Attacks can be prevented by using medicines to treat the underlying conditions triggering the attacks in addition to avoiding the external triggers, which are mentioned in Primary Raynaud’s.

  • Make sure to UNDERSTAND the “What/Why/How” of the underlying condition that is causing Raynaud’s phenomenon and Avoid the Major Risk Factors
  • Talk to a Physician as soon as possible! Certain Medications may help your condition and promote proper blood circulation

 

However, if a Raynaud’s attack begins to occur there are some tips to combat the attack, such as:

  • Remove yourself from the harmful environment which is triggering the response.
  • Run warm water over the affected area or stick your feet in a tub of warm water.
  • Stretch and move your feet actively to restore blood flow.
  • Warm your feet by putting on loose thermal socks and massage your toes.

 

Raynaud’s may be a bother, but if you seek the proper medical attention and follow preventative measures you can avoid the distress and focus on living a happier lifestyle!

Dr. Shine John, DPM, FACFAS
Podiatric Physician, Surgeon, Specialist at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists
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