Raynaud’s Phenomenon

| June 14, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Circulatory system

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon, otherwise known as Raynaud’s syndrome or disease, is a condition that causes discomfort when blood flow is reduced to your fingers and toes. This reduced blood supply is due to narrowing of the smaller arteries that supply blood to your extremities and may last from just a few minutes to many hours. It can happen in cold temperatures or as a response to stress. Around 5% of the population has the condition to some degree. It seems to be more common in women and girls—particularly those under the age of 25.

Raynaud’s phenomenon doesn’t cause any permanent damage but can affect quality of life. It can occur on its own or may be linked to another disease or disorder.

Why does Raynaud’s happen?

raynaud'sThe body preserves body heat in cold temperatures by reducing blood flow to the extremities such as the fingers and toes. In a person with Raynaud’s syndrome this response is exaggerated. The blood vessels constrict tightly or spasm, starving the tissues of blood and causing the affected areas of skin to turn white. After this they then turn blue and feel cold and numb. As your body warms and circulation returns the affected areas may turn red, tingle, throb or swell.

Although it typically affects your fingers and toes it can happen to other parts of your body such as your ears, nose, lips and nipples.

Primary versus secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon

Primary Raynaud’s phenomenon

The most common form of Raynaud’s which isn’t the result of an underlying associated medical condition. Its symptoms are usually so mild that the person never seeks medical assistance.

Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon

This secondary form of Raynaud’s is associated with diseases or other external factors that affect the function of the small blood vessels. It is less common than the primary form but its symptoms are more severe. It tends to occur later in life, around age 40.

Common causes include:

Autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus).

raynaud's repetitive movementRepetitive action or vibration, from extended use of jack-hammers and other vibrating power tools or from other repetitive activities such as typing or playing the piano.

Smoking contributes to the constriction of blood vessels—resulting in reduced blood flow.

Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, migraine medications, chemotherapy agents and drugs that cause blood vessels to narrow have been linked to Raynaud’s.

Atherosclerosis—a build-up of plaques in blood vessels that feed the heart narrow and restrict blood flow.

Injuries to the hands or feet, including fractures, surgery or frostbite can lead to Raynaud’s.

How to manage the condition

Although there is no cure for Raynaud’s, managing the condition includes following the provided suggestions below.

  • Avoid sudden temperature changes such as leaving a warm house on a chilly day. It also involves avoiding prolonged exposure to wintry weather and even handling cold objects.
  • Use lots of layers of clothing to stay warm, including gloves and thick socks. Hand warmers, available from leading pharmacies or camping stores can help keep hands warm and avoid an episode.
  • Avoid smoking and caffeine as they constrict blood vessels, worsening the problem.
  • Learn to recognise and avoid stressful situations by incorporating relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga.
  • Exercise regularly to promote blood flow and maintain good cardiovascular health.
  • Have a medication review through your GP to see if there are any alternatives to medications that are worsening the condition.

Natural therapies for Raynaud’s phenomenon

Ginkgo

raynaud's ginkgoGinkgo biloba, a popular herb used in both Western and Chinese herbal medicine is well known for its effects on the cardiovascular system. Ginkgo helps to improve blood flow, increases tissue nutrition and oxygenation. It is also a potent antioxidant, reducing damage to blood vessels and the damage that can be caused from reduced blood flow. Ginkgo is traditionally used for atherosclerosis and may be of assistance if this is an underlying cause of Raynaud’s.

The Korean Raynaud study, conducted in 2009, set out to determine the efficacy and safety of supplementing ginkgo in people with primary Raynaud’s. They found that ginkgo was well tolerated and after 8 weeks of treatment there was an improvement of 31% in the Raynaud phenomenon attack rate.
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L-arginine

Arginine, or L-arginine is an amino acid that we get from foods. It is found in animal sources of protein including red meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. It can also be taken as a dietary supplement to help improve blood blow and circulation. In the body L-arginine is converted into nitric oxide, allowing blood vessels to widen. Researchers have suggested that in Raynaud’s there is a defect in nitric oxide synthesis or metabolism. They concluded that people who have this condition may benefit from supplementation with L-arginine.
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Fish oil

raynaud's fish oilThe omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can help to reduce cholesterol and inflammation but have also been shown to induce a favourable blood vessel response to reduced blood flow. An article published in the American Journal of Medicine has been able to prove that omega-3 is beneficial for people with primary Raynaud’s. The authors found that the ingestion of fish oil improved cold tolerance and significantly delayed the onset of vasospasm. They found that these improvements were associated with an increase in digital systolic blood pressure in colder temperatures.
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Antioxidants

Free radical damage is thought to occur in Raynaud’s phenomena and supplementing with antioxidants may provide a wide-range of benefits. In one study when antioxidants were supplemented with nifedipine there was a significant improvement in the Raynaud condition score, compared to just nifedipine alone. Antioxidants were shown to improve microcirculation by a process of microvascular remodelling. The antioxidants contained in the product used include coenzyme Q10, maritime pine bark, resveratrol, N-acetyl cysteine, lutein, astaxanthin, quercetin, rose hips and selenium. Other antioxidants which may be of benefit include vitamin C and E, bioflavonoids, bilberry, grapeseed extract, garlic and ginger.
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References

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/raynauds-phenomenon

Choi WS, et al. To compare the efficacy and safety of nifedipine sustained release with Ginkgo biloba extract to treat patients with primary Raynaud’s phenomenon in South Korea; Korean Raynaud study (KOARA study). Clin Rheumatol. 2009 May;28(5):553-9

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19159999

Rembold CM, Ayers CR. Oral L-arginine can reverse digital necrosis in Raynaud’s phenomenon. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):139-41

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12701823

DiGiacomo RA, Kremer JM, Shah DM. Fish-oil dietary supplementation in patients with Raynaud’s phenomenon: A double-blind, controlled, prospective study. Am J Med. 1989 Feb;86(2):158-64

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2536517

Bruni C, et al. Antioxidant agents help primary Raynaud’s phenomenon. Int Angiol. 2015 Feb;34(1):94-5

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24732584

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