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How Is Raynaud's Disease Treate...

How Is Raynaud's Disease Treated?

There is no cure for primary or secondary Raynaud's, but many measures can reduce the number or intensity of attacks, including:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medicines
  • Treatments for the disease or condition that may help cause secondary Raynaud's
  • Surgery for the tissue damage that some people with secondary Raynaud's develop

In most people with primary Raynaud's, the disorder is successfully managed with lifestyle adjustments. Patients with secondary Raynaud's may need medicines in addition to lifestyle changes, and in rare cases, they may need surgery. Anyone with Raynaud's who develops sores on their fingers or toes or elsewhere on their body should see a doctor right away to prevent tissue loss.

Lifestyle Changes

Most of the lifestyle changes that help people with Raynaud's aim to avoid the triggers of attacks. These triggers include cold, emotional stress, and certain medicines, chemicals, or actions. To protect the body from cold, people can:

  • Wear a hat, gloves, scarf, and a coat with snug cuffs during cold weather.
  • Wear gloves or mittens when taking food out of the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Turn down air conditioning, or dress warmly while in an air conditioned space.
  • Warm up the car before driving in cold weather.

To avoid emotional triggers, people can steer clear of stressful situations if possible. Relaxation techniques also can be helpful under stress.

To avoid workplace or recreational triggers, people can:

  • Limit use of vibrating tools.
  • Wear proper protective gear if they work with industrial chemicals.
  • Limit frequent and repeated actions of the hands, such as typing or playing the piano.

A number of medicines can trigger attacks. People with Raynaud's should avoid:

  • Beta blockers
  • Over-the-counter cold or allergy remedies or diet aids that narrow blood vessels
  • Birth control pills, which affect blood flow
  • Headache medicines that contain ergotamine

Other helpful lifestyle changes for people with Raynaud's are those that boost blood flow in the body. These include exercising regularly and quitting smoking.

When attacks do occur, people with Raynaud's can take several steps to limit the length and strength of the attacks. These steps include:

  • Moving to a warmer spot, such as indoors during cold weather.
  • Warming the hands or feet. Hands can be placed under the armpits, and feet or hands can be soaked in warm water.
  • Wiggling or massaging the fingers and toes.
  • Moving the arms in circles or shaking arms or feet.
  • Relaxing and getting out of stressful situations that trigger the attacks.

Medicines and Surgery

Most of the medicines used to treat people with Raynaud's are given to improve blood flow to the extremities. These medicines include calcium channel-blockers, such as:

  • Nifedipine
  • Amlodipine
  • Diltiazem
  • Felodipine
  • Isradipine

Calcium channel-blockers help limit the number and severity of attacks in about 2 out of 3 patients with Raynaud's.

Also helpful are alpha-blockers, such as prazosin and doxazosin. In addition, skin creams that dilate blood vessels, such as nitroglycerine paste, can help heal skin sores.

The rare patient who develops sores or tissue death (gangrene) needs more aggressive treatment. Such treatment includes antibiotics and surgery to cut out damaged tissue. People with severe, worsening Raynaud's may have surgery or shots to block the action of nerves in the hands and feet that control blood flow in the skin. This surgery often gets rid of symptoms for 1–2 years. Patients may need shots more than once.


Author/Source: National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, Division of the National Institutes of Health [NIH]


Retrieved: June 2008

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