Raynaud's Phenomenon

Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition where blood vessels in the fingers and toes (and sometimes in the earlobes, nose, and lips) constrict. It is usually triggered by cold or by emotional stress. Episodes are intermittent and may last minutes or hours. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of the U.S. population is affected, and women are affected five times more often than men. It usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40 in women and later in life in men.

Signs and Symptoms

What Causes It?

Risk factors for Raynaud's phenomenon include the following.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Your health care provider may conduct several laboratory tests, such as the antinuclear antibody test, to look for antibodies associated with connective tissue disease or other autoimmune disorders. If you have Raynaud's phenomenon, your provider will most likely begin with a conservative approach involving nondrug and self-help measures (for example, dressing warmly, avoiding the cold, controlling stress).

Treatment Options

One of the most important preventive measures you can take is to stop smoking because nicotine shrinks arteries and decreases blood flow. Other preventive measures include the following.

Drug Therapies

Several types of drugs are used to treat Raynaud's phenomenon. Calcium-channel blockers can reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. Vasodilators (drugs that open up blood vessels) are also recommended.

Surgical Procedures

If attacks become extremely frequent and severe and interfere with your well-being and ability to work or function, a surgical procedure called sympathectomy may be used. This surgery becomes less effective as the disease advances.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Nutrition Herbs
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, it is important to work with your provider on getting your problem diagnosed before you start any treatment. Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Tinctures may be used singly or in combination as noted. The following herbs are circulatory stimulants with other properties as well. Use one or more tinctures in combination. Take 20 to 30 drops two times per day. Homeopathy
Homeopathy may be useful as a supportive therapy.

Acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct therapy.

Following Up

Most milder cases can be brought under control through self-help measures.

Special Considerations

Many drugs used to treat Raynaud's phenomenon can affect a growing fetus and should not be used by pregnant women.


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