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Raynaud's Disease - Symptoms and treatment options

What's the difference between Raynaud's disease and Raynaud's phenomenon? This article explores the differences and treatment options for Raynaud's disease and Raynaud's phenomenon.

Do I have Raynaud's Syndrome?Raynaud's disease

What is Raynaud's Syndrome and how is it treated?

There's an old saying in the backpacking world, 'ultra-light means cold at night'.  My hiking buddy and I are pretty serious about what we'll carry because every pound of weight in your pack means a tougher day on the trail.  My hiking buddy has had Raynaud's Syndrome for years.   It's amazing to watch his hands blanch white upon cold exposure.  Last May on the Appalachian Trail, my buddy even brought a pair of foam ice fishing gloves in an attempt to battle his Raynaud's.  The gloves didn't prove to be much of a success in the wet and cold conditions of the trail.

Raynaud's is known as phenomenon, a syndrome, and a disease.  The syndrome is often described as the symptoms of Raynaud's while referring to the disease describes having the condition.  The symptoms of Raynaud's include:

  • Acute vasoconstriction in the fingers and toes with cold exposure.
  • Pain with re-warming of the extremities.

The classic description of a Raynaud's patient is often described as:

  • Menopausal or post-menopausal female.
  • History of anxiety or depression.
  • Tobacco use.

What can be done to prevent Raynaud's Disease?  Here's a short list of ways to help prevent Raynaud's syndrome:

  • Avoid cold exposure.
  • Keep your hands and feet dry.
  • Wear adequate cold-weather clothes including a hat.
  • Avoid tobacco.
  • Consider use of a calcium channel blocker during cold weather.
  • Use an L-arginine cream prior to cold exposure.

I live and work in a very cold environment in the mountains of Colorado.  I have a number of patients who are on an extended-release calcium channel blocker called Nifedipine.  The literature describes use of calcium channel blockers as very successful for treatment of Raynaud's. (1)  Nifedipine has been quite successful in my practice with only minimal side effects and drug complications.

What about my hiking buddy?  He's reluctant to take medications and even more reluctant to carry that extra weight in his pack.  He's so focused on ultra-light, I think I'm going to have to wish for warm days.

Aldoori  M, Campbell WB, Dieppe PA.  Nifedipine in the treatment of Raynaud's Syndrome.  Cardiovasc Res. 1986 Jun;20(6): 466-70


Dr. Jeffrey Oster
Jeffrey A. Oster, DPM

Medical Advisor

Updated 4/15/2021

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