Friday, March 18, 2011

Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation Patient Education Sheet - Raynaud's Syndrome

The latest issue of Sjogren's Quarterly, published by the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation, includes another of their excellent patient information sheets. This quarter the topic is Raynaud's Syndrome.

Raynaud's Syndrome
The SSF thanks Ashley Beall, MD for authoring this Patient Education Sheet. Dr. Beall is a Partner with Arthritis and Rheumatism Associates, Wheaton, Maryland.

Raynaud's Syndrome ( sometimes called Raynaud's phenomenon) is defined as repeated episodes of color changes in the fingers and/or toes, with exposure to cold temperatures or during episodes of emotional stress. The color changes are due to a spasm of the blood vessels that feed the fingers and toes. The digits typically turn very white, then can take on a bluish color with prolonged exposure to the cold, and finally can turn very red as blood flow resumes. Raynaud's Syndrome occurs in approximately 15-30% of patients with Sjogren's Syndrome.

Some things that you can do to control your Raynaud's Syndrome include:

  • When you know that you will be exposed to cold temperatures, wear layered clothing. This will keep your core body temperature warm and keep the vessels feeding the fingers and toes from spasm.
  • Always carry a jacket with you on outings, as you may find yourself in an unexpectedly cool area.
  • Wear a hat and cover your face and ears with a scarf in cold temperatures.
  • Always wear hand coverings in cold temperatures. Mittens are best, as they will use the body heat generated by your fingers. However, a good pair of insulated gloves is also helpful.
  • Wear heavy socks or layers of socks to keep feet warm at all times.
  • Keep your home and office space comfortably warm (greater than 70 degrees is best).
  • Avoid reaching into the freezer both at home and in the grocery store.
  • Use insulated containers when handling cold drinks or food.
  • Rinse food with warm water instead of cold water.
  • Wear protective gloves when washing dishes.
  • Use disposable heat packs as needed for your hands and feet. These are available at many sports good stores.
  • Always let the water warm up before getting into the shower and keep the bathroom door closed when bathing or showering to hold in heat.
  • When possible, have a loved one warm up your car before getting into it on a cold day.
  • Moisturize your hands and feet every day to prevent your skin from cracking.
  • When your hands or feet start to feel cold, wiggle your fingers and toes, move your arms and legs around to get blood flowing, or put your hands under your armpits to warm them up. 
  • If you have access to water when a flare starts, run warm water over your fingers and toes until skin color returns to normal.
  • Do not smoke - this constricts the blood vessels that feed the hands and feet.
  • Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Several medications can be used to help the vessels stay dilated, including a class of blood pressure medications called calcium channel blockers. Some medicines, such as beta blockers used for high blood pressure, may make Raynaud's worse. 

For more information on Sjogren's syndrome contact the Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation at: 6707 Democracy Blvd, Suite 325, Bethesda, MD 20817, or visit our website:, or email us at 


Anonymous said...

I'm not called "mittens" at work for nothing ! I have an hudge collection, I think th eonly time I don't wear them must be in july/august.
Some great advice here, thanks for sharing !

Anonymous said...

As if dealing with the myriad of problems that Sjogren's brings I was out walking my dogs on a particularly cold day last November, when after half an hour my hands were so painful I had to take them back to the car. Took my gloves off and saw white fingers - my first attack of Raynaud's. Annoyingly it seems to make no difference what thickness of gloves I wear. Today, although it is March, it is about 18C outside and wonderfully sunny. I went to do a bit of weeding and lo... white fingers. No cold, no wet, no wind. Yesterday my family came by for lunch in the garden, again beautifully warm and sunny. I had a little cold beer and again white painful fingers. My fingers seem to be swollen a lot of the time now too (this affects my feet too). My hand joints are more painful. I had been coping with the fatigue, the awful dentition, dry eyes, etc, etc. Raynaud's seems to have tipped me over the edge and not being able to hold a cold beer on a warm day to me is truly heart breaking. Really fed up and really tearful today.