Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Raynaud’s disease, syndrome or phenomenon, whether primary or secondary, is characterized by extreme coldness in the hands or feet, the fingers or toes becoming white and numb. The color may change to blue and finally red, as the blood returns to the tissues. This can take from several minutes to many hours, and can be extremely painful. It may also affect the ears and nose.

Why Raynaud’s phenomenon occurs is not well understood. Usually, the body conserves heat by reducing blood circulation to the extremities, particularly the hands and feet. This response uses a complex system of nerves and muscles to control blood flow through the smallest blood vessels in the skin. In people with Raynaud’s phenomenon, this control system becomes too sensitive to cold and greatly reduces blood flow in the fingers. Damage to either the muscles or nerves that control blood flow may be the cause of Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Treatment may vary according to the severity of the symptoms. In mild cases it may be sufficient to maintain a constant body temperature, and, if possible, avoid extreme cold and sudden changes in temperature. Attacks can also be caused by stress and smoking. It is important to try and prevent attacks occurring in the first place.

There are a number of options for treating more severe Raynaud’s, such as calcium channel blockers, vasodilators, or infusions of Iloprost. Your doctor will decide on the most suitable treatment.

Natural treatments can provide benefit. Consider the use of Vitamins C and E, cayenne, ginger, garlic, gingko biloba, and/or Inositol Hexaniacinate (IH, the non-flushing form of niacin).

IH does dilate blood vessels. There is one study supporting its use in Raynaud’s: it may work by keeping vessels chronically dilated. In trials, 500mg once a day was the initial dose, then twice a day up to a total of 4gm per day. Check with your doctor. Though liver involvement is less with IH than niacin, larger doses may require monitoring for liver enzyme elevations. Objective and subjective improvement in patients with coldness, pain, numbness and burning was statistically significant. It may need to be taken regularly over a significant period of time (6 months or longer) for full effect.

 


Conditions that suggest Raynaud's Phenomenon

Immunity  

Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Raynaud’s phenomenon is found in between 30% and 50% of CFS/FMS sufferers.



Symptoms - Cardiovascular  

Raynaud's




Risk factors for Raynaud's Phenomenon

Addictions  

Current Smoker

Smoking causes blood vessels to shrink and will make the symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon worse.



Allergy  


Autoimmune  

Lupus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythromatosis) / Risk

Raynaud’s phenomenon has been observed in 17-30% of patients with SLE, depending on the study.



Circulation  

Buerger's Disease

Raynaud’s phenomenon and even skin ulcerations and gangrene of the digits are common in Buerger’s disease. Pain may be very intense in the affected regions.



Environment / Toxicity  


Symptoms - Cardiovascular  

History of Raynaud's



Counter Indicators
Symptoms - Cardiovascular  

Absence of Raynaud's




Raynaud's Phenomenon suggests the following may be present

Autoimmune  



Recommendations for Raynaud's Phenomenon

Botanical  


 


 


 


Habits  


Vitamins  

Vitamin Inositol Hexaniacinate

Inositol hexaniacinate, a variation on the B vitamin niacin, has been used with some success for relieving symptoms of Raynaud’s disease. 30 people in one study with Raynaud’s disease took 4gm of inositol hexaniacinate each day for 3 months and showed less arterial spasm. [J Int Med Res 1979;7: pp.473-83]



 


 


Key

Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
Very strongly or absolutely counter-indicative
May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended

Glossary

Raynaud's Phenomenon

Raynaud's disease or syndrome is a disorder of blood circulation, mainly in the fingers and toes. It is of unknown cause and characterized by changes of the skin that are aggravated by exposure to cold: first, becoming white with numbness and pain as a result of inadequate oxygenation of the blood, then red/purple with a burning sensation. The sudden constriction of blood vessels causes decreased blood flow to the extremities and can, in extreme cases, lead to gangrene. Also called "white finger", "wax finger" or "dead finger".

Calcium

The body's most abundant mineral. Its primary function is to help build and maintain bones and teeth. Calcium is also important to heart health, nerves, muscles and skin. Calcium helps control blood acid-alkaline balance, plays a role in cell division, muscle growth and iron utilization, activates certain enzymes, and helps transport nutrients through cell membranes. Calcium also forms a cellular cement called ground substance that helps hold cells and tissues together.

Inositol

Usually considered part of the vitamin B complex. It is thought that along with choline, inositol is necessary for the formation of lecithin within the body. Involved in calcium mobilization.

Niacin

(Vitamin B-3): A coenzyme B-complex vitamin that assists in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Essential for the health of the skin, nerves, tongue and digestive system. It is found in every cell of the body and is necessary for energy production. Niacin is also needed for DNA formation.

Milligram

(mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

Gram

(gm): A metric unit of weight, there being approximately 28 grams in one ounce.

Enzymes

Specific protein catalysts produced by the cells that are crucial in chemical reactions and in building up or synthesizing most compounds in the body. Each enzyme performs a specific function without itself being consumed. For example, the digestive enzyme amylase acts on carbohydrates in foods to break them down.

Fibromyalgia

(FMS): Originally named fibrositis, it is a mysteriously debilitating syndrome that attacks women more often than men. It is not physically damaging to the body in any way, but is characterized by the constant presence of widespread pain that often moves about the body. Fibromyalgia can be so severe that it is often incapacitating.

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