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Reynaud’s syndrome
(white finger)


This is a condition which causes discomfort and numbness in fingers and toes when exposed to cool conditions. It can also occur as a result of stress. The condition is cause by a faulty mechanism in the system which is designed to limit heat loss from the skin by progressively shutting down circulation in order to preserve core body temperature (peripheral vasoconstriction).

In sufferers, the system over-reacts, reducing the blood supply to fingers and toes below the level needed to sustain neural function. Fingers in particular will feel cold even in slightly cool conditions, and typically will become pale, with darker joint areas. In extreme cases, actual damage similar to frostbite can result from the reduced blood supply.

A predisposition to this syndrome is strongly genetically linked, and may be associated with underweight, probably as a result of the lower heat storage capacity of an excessively thin body (lower mass and relatively little body fat for insulation).

Management

The condition can be managed in the obvious way - by warming the fingers or feet as quickly as possible, or preventing them getting cool in the first place. Thicker socks and gloves should be worn when exposure to cooler air temperatures is inevitable, and brisk activity may also help support the circulation, and also generate some additional body heat.

Medical treatment of Reynaud’s

Treatment generally consists of administering either ACE inhibitors such as Captopril or Analapril (these work by blocking the effect of angiostensin, which causes blood vessels to constrict) or peripheral vasodilators such as inositol nicotinate. The latter can be obtained off prescription in the form of ‘Deep Heat’ cream available for sprains and muscle pain.

In extreme cases, surgery may be advised. This involves cutting some of the nerves which initiate the vasoconstriction.

Alternative support

Alternative treatments for Reynaud’s have much the same objectives as the use of vasodilators - to support and promote active peripheral circulation. Any or all of the following will increase circulation quickly, especially if taken as a tea: ginkgo biloba, rosemary, ginger. There is also subjective evidence that ginkgo in particular can reduce the symptoms of Reynaud’s syndrome in the longer term, even when it has not recently been ingested.

Omega 3 oils and vitamin E may also ameliorate the symptoms of Reynaud’s syndrome when taken regularly. If you are excessively thin, increasing your body weight may be helpful. If you are unable to increase your bodyweight by eating slightly more, you may need to consult your doctor.

 

 

 

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