The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Winter Is Coming: Beware Raynaud’s Sufferers!

Posted by on Monday, October 27th, 2014

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Winter is coming–and you know what that means: cold hands and feet! It’s common for people to have chilly extremities in the winter months, especially for women. Some people may tease that you’re a “wimp” or that you “just need to put more meat on your bones.” Yet, did you know there may be a medical reason behind the phenomena? Raynaud’s (pronounced “Ray-nodes”) is a relatively rare disorder, but it affects 5 percent of Americans.

raynaud's
Winter can be a difficult time for Raynaud’s sufferers, particularly those who live in colder climates. Image Source: Flickr.com (@ilsaslightroom)

What Is Raynaud’s?

Raynaud’s Syndrome is marked by brief episodes where the blood vessels narrow and reduce blood flow–particularly to the fingers and toes. In some patients, the lips, ears, nose, and nipples are also affected. Attacks typically last minutes but may last hours in some cases. About 40 percent of sufferers have problems with their feet, which we can treat here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC.

Symptoms include:

– Skin that turns white or blue when provoked by cold temperatures or stress

– Redness, throbbing, tingling, or burning when the blood flow returns

– Fingers that turn blue when taking food out of the freezer or exposure to temperatures below 60 degrees

Severe Raynaud’s is rare but may include symptoms like tissue death and gangrene.

What Causes Raynaud’s Symptoms?

Sometimes Raynaud’s symptoms are triggered by environmental factors (primary Raynaud’s). Injuries to the feet from frostbite, surgery, or a traumatic accident can cause the attacks. Exposure to vinyl chloride chemicals, nicotine, and vibrating tools can lead to Raynaud’s as well. People who type, play the piano, or engage in other repeated actions are at increased risk. People may also suffer from Raynaud’s if they are on medications containing ergotamine, cancer medicine, cold and allergy medication, beta blockers, or birth control.

Other times, Raynaud’s may be triggered by the presence of another condition that has caused damage to the arteries, such as:

– Scleroderma

– Lupus

– Rheumatoid arthritis

– Atherosclerosis

– Cryoglobulinemia or Polycythemia

– Sjögren’s Syndrome

– Dermatomyositis

– Polymyositis

– Buerger’s disease

– Hypertension

– Thyroid problems

It is important to be checked out by a doctor to ensure that there are no serious underlying health issues.

 What to Do about Raynaud’s Syndrome

Most people will respond well to lifestyle changes that can help them avoid triggering an attack. For instance, one may:

– Wear warm wool socks or layered socks for extra warmth.

– Put foot warmer packs inside boots.

– Cover feet in shoes and socks when traveling to air-conditioned spaces.

– Warm up the car before driving in cold weather.

– Use a bathroom rug to avoid stepping on cool tile.

– Wear warm slippers inside the house.

– Try to stay indoors during cold weather.

– Soak the feet in warm water regularly.

– Wiggle or massage the toes.

– Wear properly fitted shoes.

– Use lotion to keep the feet moist.

If these conservative measures do not help, medication to improve circulation may be needed. Calcium channel blockers, alpha blockers, skin creams, and ACE inhibitors may be prescribed. Antibiotics and surgery are the “go-to” treatment in the rare instances where skin sores or gangrene has developed. Very rarely, a damaged toe requires removal. For more information, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.