This month, our Sussex health expert takes a look at Raynauld’s Disease.
Raynaud’s is the term used to describe a condition that involves attacks of spasm in the arterioles, especially in the fingers and toes – and sometimes in the earlobes, nose, and lips – which then turn white, blue and finally red. Cold or emotional upset often stimulates the spasms which may last from minutes to hours. The pain may be excruciating with sensations of tingling, numbness and burning. Women are five times more likely to have Raynaud’s than men. It usually happens between the ages of 20 to 40 in women and later in life in men.
Primary Raynaud’s (or Raynaud’s disease) occurs without any underlying illness. Secondary Raynaud’s (Raynaud’s syndrome, Raynaud’s phenomenon) is secondary to another illness.
As warmth and circulation return to the fingers, they turn red, tingle or burn with pain. Only in severe cases do ulcers form on the fingertips as a result of the poor circulation. Severe, long-standing cases can cause the skin to take on a damaged, shiny and smooth appearance.
You may think it’s just the cold Sussex weather that’s causing you problems but the sudden lack of circulation that produces episodes of Raynaud’s disease is actually caused by a spasm in the arteries which supply the fingers. It is similar to the blood-vessel constriction that occurs in migraine headaches. Symptoms may originate from an injury, or be part of another connective tissue or artery-related disease e.g. scleroderma, lupus, thyroiditis, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis or arteriosclerosis.
Other factors that may precipitate onset include:
- Use of vibrating tools e.g. chainsaws, road drills
- Repetitive motion e.g. typing or playing the piano
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- History of frostbite
- Certain medications, including over-the-counter cold medications, oral contraceptive pills, sedatives and some cancer drugs
- Caffeine and alcohol
People with Raynaud’s disease are advised to dress warmly during the winter and to avoid unnecessary exposure to cold, especially of the affected parts. Wearing gloves or mittens often helps prevent attacks, and many sufferers of Raynaud’s find heated gloves invaluable.
Nutritional supplement treatment options
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, have been shown to reduce symptoms in people with primary Raynaud’s, but not in those whose symptoms were secondary to another disorder.
Inositol hexaniacinate – a variation of vitamin B3 – has been used with some success for relieving symptoms of Raynaud’s disease. Inositol supplementation leads to improved peripheral circulation and less arterial spasms. Use of inositol hexaniacinate should be under the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
Fatty acids in evening primrose oil (EPO) inhibit the formation of the hormones that promote blood vessel constriction. Double-blind trials on people with Raynaud’s disease found that, compared with placebo, supplementation with EPO reduced the number and severity of attacks.
l-Carnitine has been shown to reduce blood-vessel spasm in the fingers of those suffering with Raynaud’s in response to cold exposure.
Magnesium – symptoms similar to those seen with Raynaud’s disease occur in people with magnesium deficiency, probably because a deficiency of this mineral results in spasm of blood vessels.
Supplementing vitamin E into the diet often reduces even severe symptoms since it improves circulation and the supply of oxygen to the tissues. Supplementation should be continued long-term for full effect. Vitamin E oil can also be applied locally.
Coenzyme Q10 is also known to improve microcirculation.
Green food supplements high in chlorophyll (e.g. Spirulina, Chlorella) may prove beneficial in Raynaud’s disease, as they combat inflammation and improve circulation.
Quercetin and pycnogenol or grape seed extract are bioflavonoids that control inflammation and may provide some relief from the symptoms of Raynaud’s.
Botanical treatment options
Ginkgo Biloba has been reported to improve the circulation in small blood vessels and has been shown to reduce pain in people with Raynaud’s disease. Recommended dosage of Ginkgo for Raynaud’s is 120–160 mg per day.
Article contributed by Dr Tracy S Gates, DO, DIBAK, L.C.P.H., Consultant, Pure Bio Ltd. Copyright © Pure Bio Ltd 2021. All rights reserved. Pure Bio Ltd are a leading UK supplier of the highest quality PURE nutritional supplements, based in Horsham, West Sussex. Visit www.purebio.co.uk for all your nutritional supplement needs.