Advice to Nurses on Treating Raynaud’s

Nursing in Practice LogoWe were happy to see an article in a UK nursing magazine, Nursing in Practice, with advice on diagnosing and treating Raynaud’s phenomenon.   More knowledgeable medical professionals will result in better treatment for Frosties across the globe.

The article contains a good overview of the condition, including:

  • The history of Raynaud’s discovery in 1862 by French physician Maurice Raynaud
  • Description of what occurs during attacks, key triggers and color changes
  • Typical symptoms
  • Differences between primary vs. secondary Raynaud’s and the tests used to detect an underlying medical condition
  • Treatment and management of Raynaud’s

In addition to the scientific side of the condition, the author does a nice job of reporting the type of everyday activities Frosties can find difficult.  For example, “Going to the supermarket especially in the refrigerated or freezer aisles can be a real challenge, turning keys in locks on a cold day, putting hands on a cold steering wheel or holding a cold glass of drink on a summer day all present hurdles that are often taken for granted. The increasing prevalence of air conditioning can also be a test of endurance.”   It’s important for medical professionals to understand the challenges facing Raynaud’s patients that non-sufferers take for granted.  We’re not imagining the pain and discomfort, it’s real!”

Another good point is how the author recognizes that each case is unique:  “…severity of symptoms can vary from person to person…some patients will only need some of these measures…everyone has their own way of coping with Raynaud’s.”  That’s the first time we’ve seen this point highlighted so consistently in print.

Self-management suggestions include:

  • Layering thin clothing – allows air to be trapped within the layers, aiding warmth.
  • Thermal underwear, insulted/windproof coat, hat, scarf and gloves to fight the cold.
  • Thermal or insulated boots and gloves  – buy a size or half size bigger to accommodate thick thermal socks.
  • Hand warmers inside gloves or in coat pockets; foot and body warmers.
  • Silk thermal glove liners from outdoor and camping shops under thicker gloves (easy to peel off a layer for outdoor tasks requiring more dexterity).
  • Laying clothes on the radiator to warm up before putting them on (we got this tip from one of our members!).
  • Start the car a few minutes before going out to put the heater on (unfortunately illegal in some states…)
  • Keep the temperature around a Raynaud’s sufferer constant, especially between rooms at home.
  • Avoid smoking and excessive caffeine, as they constrict the blood vessels and may aggravate symptoms.

Dietary supplements are mentioned, but keep in mind there’s no clinical support for supplements being effective in reducing the frequency or severity of Raynaud’s attacks.  However, the suggestion for adding garlic, chili and ginger when cooking may prove helpful, as these foods are known to have some warming properties.

For medications, they suggest the use of calcium channel blockers, which are the most commonly prescribed drugs for Raynaud’s patients.  Surprised they suggest considering the use of anti-depressants, which, while they may reduce Raynaud’s symptoms, are generally not considered unless there’s a more serious medical issue involved more specific to the use of these drugs for treatment.  In severe cases where a patient may be in danger of gangrene or losing a digit, iloprost is suggested – a very potent vasodilator requiring hospital in-patient care as it’s distributed through IV treatments.

Here’s the link to the full article.   Wish it were published in the U.S., as it could be useful in educating our nursing population here in the states!