Health & Beauty

Raynaud's Association Recognizes October as Raynaud's Awareness Month

Raynaud's Association reported that October is Raynaud's Awareness Month, a time to shed light on a medical disorder that afflicts 5-10 percent of the American population.

Four out of five of them are women.

According to a media release, Raynaud's Disease (also known as Raynaud's Phenomenon or Syndrome) is an exaggerated sensitivity to cold temperatures that causes numbness or pain as the tiny arteries that supply blood to the extremities narrow (vasospasms). Stress can also cause the reaction.

Fall and winter pose many hazards for sufferers. Scraping icy windshields, shoveling walkways, waiting for the bus, watching your kids' outdoor sports, etc. can cause painful spasms that last for hours. "Bundling yourself up with heavy clothes is great, but try using a cellphone or opening a door with a key when you have heavy gloves on," says Lynn Wunderman, founder and chair of the Raynaud's Association. "You have to take them off," she says. "It's no wonder why so many Frosties are feeling blue from the cold."

Often fingertips turn blue or white, then red (upon recovery), but it varies by individual. "We don't know the cause, and there's no cure yet for Raynaud's," says Wunderman.

According to the Raynaud's Association, 90 percent of Raynaud's sufferers do not seek treatment for the disorder. "They often brush it off by saying they have poor circulation," says Wunderman. "Well, that's true, but Raynaud's could be an indication of a serious and disabling underlying disease such as scleroderma or lupus."

A blood test known as the ANA (antinuclear antibody test) can determine whether the Raynaud's is primary or secondary to another inflammatory disease. "It may take years for the other disease signs to show up, so follow-up with your doctor is important," Wunderman says.

The Association noted that drugs such as calcium channel blockers may help take the "edge off" the spasms that result during an attack, or may help to reduce the formation of digital ulcers that occur in more serious cases. Drugs that increase blood flood such as those used for erectile dysfunction (ED) can also provide relief for many sufferers but are not covered by most insurers.

Biofeedback, tai chi, yoga and some other non-medicinal practices that aim to increase blood flow have helped to diminish the severity of attacks for some, but studies have been inconclusive. "At this point, much of the treatment for Raynaud's is geared toward avoiding cold or stress," Wunderman says. "Obviously, that's not always practical."

The Raynaud's Association is a 501(c)(3) charity whose primary mission is to raise awareness of the disorder so that sufferers will seek treatment.

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  • Alexandra Scarborough
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