Biofeedback To Reduce Symptoms of Raynaud’s

This article explains how biofeedback works for Raynaud’s sufferers.  Dr. Celeste De Bease, a certified biofeedback therapist, has seen great improvement for these clients.  She says that thermal biofeedback

has a great track record.  For people with Raynaud’s Disease, thermal biofeedback training is successful 80 to 90% of the time. Effects continue to be shown at one year and three year follow-ups.

One of the factors in Raynaud’s is stress.  Even though someone doesn’t feel stressed, they may not be getting the proper sleep, not eating right, or been sick.  All of these factors contribute to biological stress.

Biofeedback training accomplishes two very important tasks for Raynaud’s sufferers. First, it helps them train to vasodilate their peripheral blood vessels so their hands can stay nice and warm. Second, it teaches them to reduce the impact of stress so their blood vessels will be less likely to constrict in the first place! Warm heart; warm hands…what a perfect match!

What Do The White, Blue, And Red Colors Mean In Raynaud’s?

When a person with Raynaud’s gets cold their fingers change colors.   What do the colors mean?

  • White-the first color to appear at the fingertips.  This is called the paler phase.  The digital arteries are closing so no blood is getting to the tissues in the fingers.  This causes the skin to be pale or white.
  • Blue-the second color to appear.  This is the cyanotic phase.  There is some flow of blood but the blood is de-oxygenated causing cyanosis.
  • Red-the third color to appear.  This is the blood coming back to the fingers as they warm up causing a re-blush as skin recovers.

In this video Dr. F Wigley, a Rheumatologist, talks about what causes some people to have an exaggeration of the normal response to cold.  The thermo regulatory blood vessels are the ones that respond to ambient temperature.  Once these nerves are triggered they send messages to the Hypothalamus in the brain, which regulates the body temperature.  In Raynaud’s this response over reacts to temperatures, so the brain thinks it’s colder than it really is, thus drawing blood toward the heart and brain to protect itself.

This was a very interesting and informative video if you have time to watch it.

Woman Toughs It Out For Good Cause

I read an article about an amazing woman who, despite having Raynaud’s, is going to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa this September.  Debbie Clayton knows she might get frostbite, or worse, loose her fingers,   but she is determined to climb to raise money for the Raynaud’s Association.  Fortunately for her, the group’s founder is lending her some electrically heated gloves for the trip.

My personal experience with Raynaud’s

This is a picture I took this past winter after walking from one of my classes at BYU to work on campus.  I didn’t have my handwarmers with me that day and gloves do nothing to keep my hands warm.

On winter days if I don’t have my handwarmers with me my fingers will do this several times throughout the day as I walk from class to class.  As you can see it’s very important to keep my hands warm.  When I get to work I pull out my portable heater and spend the next 5 – 10 minutes warming my hands and toes because my toes will always turn white like this.  When I wear my Uggs my toes don’t get as frozen and sometimes I put the handwarmers in my boots, but that is quite uncomfortable.  If you have this problem I would highly recommend Uggs.

Last December my family and I went up to look at the lights at Temple Square and I nearly froze to death.  I can’t be outside for long in the Utah winters.  It’s kind of too bad because like being outside normally.

Handwarmers can get expensive too if you are using two and sometimes four a day throughout the long winter here in Utah.  I’m looking into some other alternatives that are not as disposable as handwarmers.  I’ve seen the wired heat gloves, but they are not that attractive and are very bulky.  I still have a several months to come up with something while I soak up all the warm weather I can in these summer months.

Diseases associated with Raynaud’s

Secondary Raynaud’s or Raynaud’s Syndrome

Although secondary Raynaud’s (Raynaud’s syndrome) is less common than the primary form, it is often a more complex and serious disorder. Secondary means that patients have an underlying disease or condition that causes Raynaud’s Syndrome. Connective tissue diseases are the most common cause of Raynaud’s syndrome. Some of these diseases reduce blood flow to the digits by causing blood vessel walls to thicken and the vessels to constrict too easily. Raynaud’s syndrome is seen in approximately 85 to 95 percent of patients with scleroderma, and mixed connective tissue diseases, and it is present in about one-third of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Raynaud’s syndrome also can occur in patients who have other connective tissue diseases, including Sjogren’s syndrome, dermatomyositis and polymyositis.

Possible causes of Raynaud’s syndrome, other than connective tissue diseases, are carpel tunnel syndrome syndrome and occlusive arterial disease (blood vessel disease). Some drugs, including beta-blockers (used to treat high blood pressure), ergotamine preparations (used for migraine headaches), certain agents used in cancer chemotherapy, and drugs that cause vasoconstriction (such as some over-the-counter cold medications and narcotics), are linked to Raynaud’s syndrome.

People in certain occupations may be more vulnerable to secondary Raynaud’s syndrome. Some workers in the plastics industry (who are exposed to vinyl chloride) develop a scleroderma-like illness, of which Raynaud’s syndrome can be a part. Workers who operate vibrating tools can develop a type of Raynaud’s syndrome called vibration white finger (VWF) or hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

When Raynaud’s syndrome is associated with scleroderma (Systemic Sclerosis) problems may involve skin ulcers (sores) or gangrene (tissue death) in the fingers or toes. Painful ulcers and gangrene are fairly common and can be difficult to treat. In addition, a person may experience heartburn or difficulty in swallowing. These two problems are caused by weakness in the muscle of the oesophagus (the tube that takes food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach) that can occur in people with connective tissue diseases. However, the more serious consequences are caused by involvement of the lungs,heart, kidneys and blood vessels.

This video shows a mother’s experience with her son’s scleroderma.

Primary vs. secondary Raynaud’s

Primary vs. secondary Raynaud’s
Raynaud’s occurs in two main types:

  • Primary Raynaud’s. This is Raynaud’s without an underlying disease or associated medical problem that could provoke vasospasm. Also called Raynaud’s disease, it’s the most common form of the disorder.
  • Secondary Raynaud’s. Also called Raynaud’s phenomenon, this form is caused by an underlying problem. Although secondary Raynaud’s is less common than the primary form, it tends to be a more serious disorder. Signs and symptoms of secondary Raynaud’s usually first appear at later ages — around 40 — than they do for people with the primary form of Raynaud’s.

Causes of secondary Raynaud’s include:

  • Scleroderma. Raynaud’s phenomenon occurs in the majority of people who have scleroderma — a rare disease that leads to hardening and scarring of the skin. Scleroderma, a type of connective tissue disease, results in Raynaud’s because the disease reduces blood flow to the extremities.

  • Lupus. Raynaud’s is also a common problem for people with lupus erythematosus — an autoimmune disease that can affect many parts of your body, including your skin, joints, organs and blood vessels. An autoimmune disease is one in which your immune system attacks healthy tissue.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Raynaud’s may be an initial sign of rheumatoid arthritis — an inflammatory condition causing pain and stiffness in the joints, often including the hands and feet.
  • Sjogren’s syndrome. Raynaud’s phenomenon can also occur in people who have Sjogren’s syndrome — an autoimmune disorder that may accompany scleroderma, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Diseases of the arteries. Raynaud’s phenomenon can be associated with various diseases that affect arteries, such as atherosclerosis, which is the gradual buildup of plaques in blood vessels that feed the heart (coronary arteries), or Buerger’s disease, a disorder in which the blood vessels of the hands and feet become inflamed. Primary pulmonary hypertension, a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries of the lungs, can be associated with Raynaud’s.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in your wrist that protects a major nerve to your hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which pressure is put on this nerve, producing numbness and pain in the affected hand. The affected hand may become more susceptible to cold temperatures and episodes of Raynaud’s.
  • Repetitive trauma. Raynaud’s can also be caused by repetitive trauma that damages nerves serving blood vessels in the hands and feet. Some people who type or play the piano vigorously or for long periods of time may be susceptible to Raynaud’s. Workers who operate vibrating tools can develop a type of Raynaud’s phenomenon called vibration-induced white finger.
  • Smoking. Smoking constricts blood vessels and is a potential cause of Raynaud’s.
  • Injuries. Prior injuries to the hands or feet, such as wrist fracture, surgery or frostbite, can lead to Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • Certain medications. Some drugs — including beta blockers, which are used to treat high blood pressure; migraine medications that contain ergotamine; medications containing estrogen; certain chemotherapy agents; and drugs that cause blood vessels to narrow, such as some over-the-counter cold medications — have been linked to Raynaud’s.
  • Chemical exposure. People exposed to vinyl chloride, such as those who work in the plastics industry, may develop an illness similar to scleroderma. Raynaud’s can be a part of that illness.
  • Other causes. Raynaud’s has also been linked to thyroid gland disorders.

How To Treat Raynaud’s Through Lifestyle Changes and Supplements

Raynaud’s Syndrome has no simple cures, and one of the easiest ways to treat Raynaud’s Syndrome and its symptoms is to make lifestyle changes. Raynaud’s Syndrome is a disease where the small arteries that bring blood to the fingers and toes spasm, usually due to either being exposed to cold, or stress triggers.

Lifestyle Changes:

  • Avoid drinking caffeine, both are vasoconstrictive and can further complicate Raynaud’s Syndrome. Don’t just pass on the coffee, avoid caffeinated sodas and chocolate as well.
  • Avoid alcohol, which is a stimulant and can also further complicate Raynaud’s Syndrome. It has the same type of affect on Raynaud’s Syndrome that caffeine does.
  • Direct and indirect smoking should be avoided. If you smoke, quit smoking! Nicotine really constricts arteries in the extremities. Beta blocker drugs also may trigger the condition
  • Exercise at least 3 times a week. Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet that concentrates on whole, unprocessed foods. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. In general, the more fruits and vegetables are processed, the less nutritive value they have. Eat whole grains or foods made from whole grains. Beans (legumes) are a healthy, low fat source of protein and vitamins. Seeds and nuts contain essential fatty acids.
  • Drink 8 – 10 eight ounces of pure water. Reduce or eliminate alcohol, caffeine and refined sugar. Carbonated drinks should be severely restricted.
  • Reduce your stress. There are numerous studies documenting the deleterious effects of stress on health. Stress triggers the autonomic nervous system which acts to constrict the vessels of the periphery. Make time for friends and family. Find ways of relaxing throughout the day. Consider meditation, deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques or prayer. Relaxation exercises can help you relax the autonomic nervous system, including the nerves that control small arteries in the hands.
  • Another possibility is a course of biofeedback to learn to warm your hands, followed by practice on your own. There is good research showing that biofeedback can be very helpful for suffers of Raynaud’s disease.
  • When your fingers start to turn white, the first thing to do is try and warm them up. You can dip your hands in warm water for a few minutes, or put on woolen gloves.
  • Add more garlic and onion to your diet. Garlic and onion both are known for aiding with circulatory problems. Try to add more of both to your diet. Try using them in seasonings and marinades or even salad dressings.  You can even get extra garlic into your diet by taking it in a supplemental form if you don’t like the taste.

Supplements:

  • The AMA has endorsed the need for a daily multivitamin.
  • Take 400 – 800 IU of vitamin E daily. Selenium enhances the action of vitamin E. Also supplement vitamin C, 500 – 1000 mg each day, as vitamin C converts vitamin E into its helpful form after oxidation. Vitamin E is especially useful in Raynaud’s as it decreases platelet aggregation
  • Ginkgo Biloba is a powerful antioxidant and is well known for its powerful action to enhance circulation, even to the smallest of body parts, and apart from helping with the blood flow, it is thought to also make the blood less sticky. A growing body of research shows that Ginkgo biloba increases blood flow when taken orally by those with impaired circulation in extremities, leading scientists to believe that ginkgo supplementation may be useful in treating Raynaud’s disease. In his book, The Green Pharmacy, noted herbalist James A. Duke, Ph.D. suggests a standardized extract of 60-240 mg per day of ginkgo
  • Additionally ginkgo not only enhances memory and decision-making, it also lowers homocysteine levels for cardiovascular health.*
  • Coenzyme-Q10. One of the best-known effects of this compound is its antioxidant qualities as well as the control it exercises on the flow of oxygen within cells, assistance with cardiovascular functioning, the production of energy, its assistance with absorption of other nutrients as well as its immune boosting properties.
  • Calcium has a natural calming and tranquilizing effect and is necessary for maintaining a regular heartbeat and the transmission of nerve impulses.
  • Essential Fatty Acids (EFA). Recent research suggests that supplementation with omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) may be useful because they decrease platelet aggregation, which can limit blood flow. Some natural practitioners recommend massaging the oil into affected fingers and toes to improve blood flow, as well. Hemp seed oil and oils found in nuts, seeds and fish are other good sources of EFAs.
  • Many practitioners recommend niacin, including Andrew Weil, M.D., in his book Natural Health, Natural Medicine. Niacin induces blood vessel dilation that results in warm flushing and tingling in the skin’s surface. Niacin will dilate the blood vessels in the skin, causing a wave of heat from your head to your toes.
  • Some practitioners also recommend taking garlic, which, like EFAs, decreases platelet aggregation.

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