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17 April 2017

Understanding Raynaud’s Syndrome

Img: Flickr 
There’s nothing worse than freezing fingertips in the winter, despite wearing gloves. That numb feeling is unpleasant, and you’ll find yourself grateful to finally get into the warm to get the feeling back in your hands after getting home on a cold winter evening. Ever notice that your hands get drained of colour and go white when cold? Then maybe red or blue? You could have a common condition called Raynaud’s.

Raynaud’s syndrome is triggered by cold temperatures most commonly, but can also occur due to stress or anxiety. The symptoms occur due to blocked blood flow in the fingers, from a temporary spasm of blood vessels.

The condition is extremely common, with a whopping 20% of the worldwide adult population affected. It’s also more common in women than men, as mentioned in our earlier post, due to higher vasoconstriction.

The severity of the condition differs from person to person but all experience colour changes – white, blue then red - in their fingertips when symptoms appear. Some also experience pain, numbness, and pins and needles, and the symptoms can last for anything from a few minutes to several hours.

There are two types of Raynaud’s syndrome, categorised by how the condition develops. The NHS website explains the difference between primary and secondary Raynaud’s:
  • Primary – when the condition develops by itself
  • Secondary – when it's caused by another health condition

Primary Raynaud’s is the most common type, with the underlying cause unclear. The most common type of health condition that causes secondary Raynaud’s is an autoimmune one, in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue. These conditions include rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

The Daily Mail reported on a teaching assistant affected by Raynaud’s who discovered the cause for her secondary Raynaud’s was an under-active thyroid. Chelsea Wood was diagnosed with Raynaud’s at the age of 15, and after experiencing three years of severe symptoms, the autoimmune disease mixed connective tissue disease was discovered to be the underlying cause.  Chelsea experienced dizziness and headaches, before being treated with thyroxin hormones.

Those who experience symptoms of Raynaud’s are urged to contact their GP to determine whether they’re affected by primary or secondary, and if the underlying cause is more serious than the generally mild symptoms of Raynaud’s.

Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our content writer intern.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry with an English A -Level and love of writing about anything and everything in tow.