Understanding Raynaud’s Syndrome and How to Combat It
By Dr. Molly Casey
Slowing down is often a very helpful and positive thing in society, but not always. There are some systems that are healthier when maintained at a steady and optimal speed -- such as dishes at a fast-paced restaurant. As the owner of that restaurant you don’t want the access to clean dishes to get clogged up because the dishwasher decided to take a “slow things down” approach to his job, especially in prime time. This is true for your body and its circulatory system. A condition that arises when there is an unwanted “slow things down” approach is called Raynaud’s syndrome.
Raynaud’s syndrome, also called Raynaud’s disease, is a blood vessel disorder. Blood vessels are tissue that carry blood throughout your body; some carry blood to the heart and some carry blood from the heart to organs and tissues of the extremities.
Blood delivers nutrients and oxygen to tissues and structures throughout the body; circulation is the flow of that blood. In Raynaud’s syndrome the smaller vessels that carry blood to the skin of extremities constrict and become too narrow to provide access for proper circulation; this process is called vasospasm. It most frequently affects fingers and toes though it can affect other areas such as lips, nose, and ears. The affected areas then become cold, can change colors (white and then blue/purple), and may become numb. These symptoms go away as the blood vessels dilate again. During the process of dilation and as the circulation returns to regular capacity it is common to experience a prickly feeling in the affected digits.
There are two types of Raynaud’s syndrome, primary and secondary. There is no known cause for primary Raynaud’s syndrome and it tends to be less severe. Secondary Raynaud’s syndrome is present because of another underlying disease or condition such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, or a blood disorder called cryoglobulinemia.
Primary Raynaud’s syndrome affects both women and men, though 80 percent of all cases involve women. It generally develops before the age of 30. There usually is some sort of family history. It is more frequently occurring in cold climates than warm, and stress is an exacerbating factor.
Secondary Raynaud’s syndrome usually occurs after the age of 30. Those with injuries to hands and feet are more prone to it as well as those who engage in repetitive activities or actions. Those with exposure to workplace chemicals and those who smoke are more prone to this type of Raynaud’s, as well as those living in a cold climate and increased stress.
There is no cure for Raynaud’s syndrome. It is highly recommended that those suffering from the syndrome participate in activities and lifestyle changes that promote optimal circulatory system health. This includes optimal nervous system communication so all systems, including the circulatory system, can function at its best.
Chiropractic care facilitates optimal nervous system communication. Lifestyle habits that promote optimal circulatory health include proper hydration (drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily), cardio exercise done at least three to five times weekly, not smoking and eating a clean diet. Protecting oneself against cold with proper gear of hats, gloves, scarves and layers is also helpful, as is decreasing stress as much as possible to avoid any known triggers.
Keeping up the pace and flow in life is necessary. Sometimes the bothersome symptoms that won’t kill us can nag at us the most. It doesn’t need to wear at you as much you might let it though. If some of this rings true for you or someone you love, stop in to see the doctors at The Joint Chiropractic and let them help you help yourself and your health.
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