Raynaud's Phenomenon and Chillblains
Raynaud's Phenomenon (also known as Raynaud's disease) is where the small blood vessels in the extremities, such as hands, feet, fingers and toes are over sensitive to even the slightest changes in temperature, the cold and sometimes stress.
This causes a Raynaud's attack where the fingers (or toes) change colour (but not always). They tend to change colour by turning white, then blue and then red.
Raynaud's is a common condition thought to affect up to ten million people in the UK.
- A Raynaud's attack can be very uncomfortable and painful
- Generally the fingers and toes are affected but all extremities can be affected (e.g. nose and ears)
Symptoms tend to be colour changes in the extremities. Extremely cold extremities, associated numbness and tingling and pain.
How serious is it?
There are two types of Raynaud's. Primary and Secondary.
Primary is usually less serious as it is more manageable than secondary.
Secondary usually have more severe symptoms as it is caused by another condition, usually an autoimmune disorder such as scleroderma or lupus.
With Raynaud's prevention is better than cure.
In clinic we recommend maintaining a 'constant' temperature. This means avoiding extremes of temperature. Which means it's not just a winter condition. Painful flare ups can be caused from going from the hot sunny outside into a cool air conditioned building or from going from the cold snowy outdoors to a toasty living room!
Associated issues with Raynaud's, particularly in winter are Chillblaines (although anybody can get these).
Chillblains are the result of an abnormal reaction to the cold. They are common in the UK because of the damp, cold weather we experience.
When the skin is cold, blood vessels near it's surface gets narrower. If the skin is then exposed to heat, the blood vessels become wider. If this happens too quickly, blood vessels near the surface can't always handle the increased blood flow. This can cause blood to leak in to the surrounding tissue, which may cause itching and swelling.
Chillblains can become very painful, ulcerated and infected. It's therefore important to get them checked asap if you are having problems!
How to prevent and maintain Raynaud's or Chillblains?
- Don't put your hands or feet close/on a radiator or fire! Warm up slowly. Too much heat too quickly can cause damage and pain - you might even cause severe burns without realising at the time due to the associated numbness.
- Remove wet clothing immediately.
- Dry hands and feet thoroughly
- Find gloves that keep your hands a constant temperature. (I recommend visiting a snowsports/outdoor specialist to find waterproof and thermal gloves).
- Find appropriate socks and footwear for the weather. Make sure your winter shoes are waterproof and again, thermal socks from a specialist store are (in my opinion) amazing!
Keep an eye out on our Facebook page and Instagram for the arrival of our stock of socks!
If you are struggling with chillblains make sure you keep your hands dry and warm. Applying a soothing lotion can alleviate itching, and if the skin is broken apply antisceptic cram and seek further advice. Here at Henley Podiatry and Health Therapies we regularly see chillblains on the toes that have turned in to a wound and can become easily infected. These tend to need some specialist dressings and treatments to aid the healing process. Most chillblains last between 2 - 3 weeks if managed correctly, but those that have ulcerated or become infected may take longer.
Do you suffer from the telltale painful purple red patches on your toes during the winter months?
If you regularly suffer from these there may be an underlying issues, such as peripheral vascular disease. Book in for an Initial Podiatry Assessment for a full appointment to check the condition of your legs and feet, the blood flow reaching them, neurological testing to check the sensation in them and advice/treatment regarding any further foot and leg issues you may be having.
Online Booking available: https://www.henleypodiatry.com/book-online-1
Telephone: 01491 260320