Raynaud’s Disease and Poor Circulation Connection

Raynaud's Disease

Raynaud’s disease and the associated syndrome are conditions that affect the circulation of certain parts of the body, most notably the hands, when exposure to cold is present, according to Mayo Clinic. It can also be a result of stress too, where the body displays the characteristic symptoms of the condition in response to high emotion or extreme physical or mental stressors.

There are many conditions that cause circulation problems, and the majority of them are related to either underlying health conditions such as atherosclerosis or peripheral artery disease (PAD). Still, lifestyle factors may play a role in the formation of some types of circulation problems as well. Raynaud’s phenomenon is comprised of two distinct sources. The first, Raynaud’s syndrome, is often caused by disorders such as lupus. The second, Raynaud’s disease, is idiopathic in nature, meaning that a direct cause is unidentifiable, according to Wikipedia. However, both forms of the condition are responsible for circulation problems which can be bothersome, but are considered by most to be more of a nuisance than a debilitating condition.

But, there are times that Raynaud’s disease can lead to sometimes serious complications, such as a vasospasm. Essentially, a vasospasm is the severe constriction of a blood vessel that makes it virtually impossible for blood to get to a particular area. Sometimes, the syndrome form of the phenomenon can include vasospasm, which when exaggerated can lead to tissue death or gangrene.

The connection between Raynaud’s disease and circulatory problems is simple. When the blood vessels are narrowed in response to the stimuli that trigger the condition, it is more difficult for blood to pass through. The resulting poor circulation can lead to temporary yet uncomfortable symptoms such as pain, tingling and numbness. Coolness can also be felt in the affected areas and this can be present even when the response is caused by triggers other than cold temperatures. However, the most common symptom of Raynaud’s disease is color changing of the affected areas. Hands can turn almost blue in response to the poor blood circulation, which decreases the amount of oxygen being distributed to the affected areas.

Most causes of poor blood circulation such as atherosclerosis or PAD are treated with combination approaches of medical therapy, lifestyle changes and home remedies. Circulation socks and compression garments are used frequently to manage symptoms. Unfortunately, for sufferers of Raynaud’s disease many of the conventional treatment methods used to improve circulation such as leg wraps, commonly used to improve poor circulation in legs, are not useful for sufferers of the phenomenon, unless areas other than the hands are affected. As such, treatment for Raynaud’s is a little more limited and relies more on prevention of recurrences, especially in mild cases.

Wearing gloves and dressing in layers is the simplest and easiest way to prevent the onset of symptoms associated with Raynaud’s disease. And, avoiding certain medications like over the counter cold remedies, beta blockers and birth control pills, which Mayo Clinic explains can aggravate symptoms is another means of preventative action. Still, in some cases, these methods of prevention are not effective at managing the circulatory challenges of Raynaud’s, and sometimes medications and even surgeries are employed to treat the condition.

Because reduced blood flow is the primary source of symptoms, medications designed to improve circulation can be used in treatment of the condition. Calcium channel blockers, for instance, are used to open up blood vessels found in the extremities by making them relax. And, alpha blockers can be used to improve circulation that has been reduced by hormonal changes. Vasodilators can be used both in the form of oral medications as well as externally applied cream to help improve circulation by causing the relaxing of blood vessels.

In some extreme cases, surgical intervention may be employed to combat serious cases of Raynaud’s disease. A surgery in which nerves that cause exaggerated responses to stimuli therefore creating blood vessel constriction may be considered. And, injections of chemicals that are useful in reducing the affected nerves’ increased susceptibility to cause constriction is another treatment method. In the most severe of cases where tissue death has occurred as a result of prolonged and serious cases of the condition, amputation may be employed of the severely impacted areas.

For most sufferers, Raynaud’s disease is a mild condition that creates uncomfortable symptoms that come and go in response to stimuli that is easily managed by the avoidance of extreme cold. However, the circulation woes that it presents can be problematic and those with the condition should employ any means possible to prevent recurrences which, over time can (although rarely) lead to serious complications.