We’re always glad to see the press helping to raise awareness of Raynaud’s, so we were very excited to see this recent article titled “Raynaud’s Phenomenon Might Be the Reason Your Fingers Change Color in the Cold” in Woman’s World Magazine.
But unfortunately the Woman’s World article includes some inaccurate or questionable information that we feel a responsibility to point out to fellow Frosties:
- More women than men suffer from Raynaud’s because of “the changes that occur during menopause.” – This is not true, yet it’s included as a quote from a medical professional. How many of us encountered Raynaud’s symptoms years before we were of age for menopause? Likely most of us! While we do believe there are hormonal factors at work associated with Raynaud’s, to our knowledge, it’s never been clinically proven. We’ve heard from women reporting they no longer suffer from Raynaud’s after childbirth, but also just the opposite – women who never suffered before getting pregnant became aware of Raynaud’s attacks during their pregnancy and continued with them after childbirth. There’s no definitive pattern. And because the true cause of Raynaud’s is still a mystery, it’s difficult to medically explain these situations. But pregnancy is a long way away from menopause, so while both events involve hormonal issues, no cause and effect pattern has been discovered, and we take issue with the statement included in the Woman’s World article.
- Typical Raynaud’s symptoms include “thickened skin in the fingers and toes.” – They list this symptom along with pain and tingling, plus discoloration of the fingers and toes. Where do they get this fact? Thickening of the skin is a symptom of an uncommon autoimmune disease to which Raynaud’s is associated – and can be the first sign – called scleroderma. But while the majority of scleroderma patients will experience Raynaud’s symptoms, only a fraction of Raynaud’s sufferers will ever be diagnosed with scleroderma. Raynaud’s affects approximately 15 to 30 million Americans; scleroderma patients number 200,000 to 300,000. We want people with Raynaud’s symptoms to identify them and seek treatment. If articles promote symptoms few sufferers will ever experience, it defeats the purpose of working to create awareness.
- “Regular exercise and a healthy diet can improve blood pressure, reducing the need for high blood pressure meds like beta-blockers, which may limit blood flow to extremities and make Raynaud’s worse.” We agree exercise helps circulation, and there are foods that are helpful in our diets to warm us (ginger) and boost circulation (magnesium). But all blood pressure drugs are not bad for Raynaud’s sufferers. In fact, those in the category of calcium channel blockers are clinically proven to help alleviate Raynaud’s symptoms. And you don’t need to be diagnosed with high blood pressure to be a candidate for them. As long as you don’t have low blood pressure, they will likely be well tolerated.
- “A study from the Saint Louis University Medical Center reports that 64 percent of middle aged women experienced remission of most symptoms over a period of seven years.” This stat is referenced in the article reporting the results of the St. Louis study, but isn’t part of that research. It’s a quote from a different study. When we found the original research being quoted, it showed a higher incidence of patients residing in warmer climates and using vasodilator drugs in the remitted group. We also found a similar longitudinal study conducted in France. The researchers discovered 24 out of 72 patients claimed their Raynaud’s was “in remission” over a period of 5+ years. Some of the factors involved were surgical procedures (sympathectomies), pregnancies (see earlier discussion on this issue), moving to warmer climates, retirement, etc.
Yes, we can positively impact Raynaud’s symptoms with lifestyle changes – retirement means less work stress, warmer climates can be easier to tolerate (albeit year-round air conditioning can be a factor). Plus there are surgical procedures to sever the nerves that constrict the blood vessels during attacks, Botox® is also being explored for this purpose. And, of course, there are those having successful results with oral and topical drugs that are proven treatments for Raynaud’s. But with few studies documenting the subject of “Raynaud’s Remission” we wouldn’t promote this promise in a mainstream publication. People do tell us their Raynaud’s went away, but many others tell us it’s gotten worse over time. There’s just no way to predict the outcome. All we can do is identify our triggers and work to avoid them or prevent their impact with warming strategies and products that work for each of us.
Hope the above caveats help provide a balanced view of the information reported in Woman’s World. Here’s the full article: “Raynaud’s Phenomenon Might Be the Reason Your Fingers Change Color in the Cold”