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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 non-drug and self-help measures (for example, dressing warmly, avoiding the cold, controlling stress).
If you smoke, it is very important to stop because nicotine shrinks arteries and decreases blood flow. Protecting yourself well from the cold reduces episodes. Exercising can be good to increase circulation. Raising your arms above your head and vigorously whirling them can be a helpful exercise. Be careful not to cut or injure affected areas to avoid tissue damage. Several types of drugs and even surgery are used in more severe situations.
Over the Counter
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
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 may be useful as a supportive therapy.
Acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct therapy.
Most milder cases can be brought under control through self-help measures.
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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