There are several ways to help ease the symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon. Simple changes in your day-to-day life can help lot but medications are also available.
There are a number of different drugs that are prescribed for Raynaud’s phenomenon. Most of these work by making your blood vessels wider. Examples include nifedipine and amlodipine. As these drugs don’t act only on the blood vessels in the fingers and toes, they may also cause side-effects such as flushing of the face, headaches or dizziness. However, many people have no side-effects from these drugs.
Drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as losartan and ACE inhibitors, can also help to control Raynaud’s symptoms. Fluoxetine (which is sometimes prescribed for depression) is another drug that can help improve circulation.
In severe cases – almost always in cases of secondary Raynaud’s – some treatments may be given as an intravenous drip (directly into a blood vessel). These intravenous drugs act directly on your blood vessels and cause them to open up. The most commonly used intravenous drug for this condition is iloprost.
Another group of drugs which may be used to treat severe Raynaud's are phosphodiesterase inhibitors like sildenafil (trade name Viagra).
What can I do to help myself?
When you have Raynaud’s, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to try to reduce the risks and control the number of attacks you suffer from, where possible. Aside from medication, the following may help:
This is very important. You should wear warm gloves when outdoors in cold weather and warm your hands before you put the gloves on. You may find that electrically heated gloves are helpful. Small portable hand warming aids are also available.
Make sure you wear warm socks and a hat. But try to keep your whole body warm too. Layers of clothing work better at trapping the heat than thicker clothes.
If you do get cold, try not to warm yourself back up too quickly as this can make the attack last longer.
Looking after your hands
Dry hands and water can lead to the development of cracks or fissures on your hands that may break down further. To help look after your hands, put cream on whenever you’ve had them in water. You can either use a short-acting water-based cream, such as E45 or aqueous cream, or an oil-based cream that is thicker and longer lasting, such as emulsifying ointment.
Keep an attack diary
You may find there’s a pattern to your Raynaud’s attacks, and that will help you in reducing the risk of an attack.
Attacks may be associated with periods of high stress which may be difficult to avoid, but it may also be associated with, for example, your weekly trip to the supermarket where parts of the shop are very cold. Use your attack diary to help guide you and protect yourself from attacks wherever possible.
Regular exercise will improve your circulation and, if you’re outside on a cold day, keeping active will improve the blood flow to your hands and feet and help you to stay warm.
Read more about exercise and arthritis.
Smoking can damage your circulation, so if you have Raynaud’s phenomenon you shouldn’t smoke.
Taking vitamins can help to control the symptoms in some people with Raynaud’s. The use of high-dose vitamins E and C, evening primrose oil, fish oils and ginger or Ginkgo biloba might also help. If using vitamins doesn’t help within 3 months, you should stop taking them and ask your doctor which medications might suit you.
Read more about complementary and alternative medicine for arthritis.