You might be feeling it a little more as the temperatures drop, particularly in your hands and feet. If you can’t seem to keep these extremities warm in the cooler seasons, you could be experiencing Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Raynaud’s phenomenon affects circulation in the fingers and toes. At the same time, it can also occur, although less frequently, in the ears, nose, or nipples.
Blood flow is interrupted or restricted in these areas, and cold temperatures can trigger an attack. You could be experiencing an attack if you notice the following when you step outdoors in cool temperatures:
- A substantial drop in temperature in the affected area
- Pain ranging from slight to severe
Sometimes, the pain might not hit until you get back indoors and blood flow re-enters areas where it was restricted.
The phenomenon called Raynaud’s disease, or Raynaud’s syndrome, can be a condition all on its own or a symptom of an underlying issue. Certain medications, autoimmune conditions, atherosclerosis, and arthritis may lead to Raynaud’s.
But if you don’t have those conditions, it could be a response to the temperature or stress. In that case, you could have primary Raynaud’s.
Although doctors know what’s happening, they don’t know why it is. That means treating it usually comes down to management.
Improving overall blood flow may help. Increasing activity can promote better circulation and help relieve stress.
Diet and supplementation could play a role too. Eating foods that boost nitric oxide can help relax and dilate blood vessels, so it flows better. Foods that can boost nitric oxide production include leafy greens, beets, beetroot juice, meat, and animal proteins.
Useful supplements may include the amino acids arginine and citrulline malate.
You may also prevent Raynaud’s attacks by being proactive. When heading out in cooler temperatures, layer up. This could mean layering socks and gloves while also keeping your head and neck warm with hats or scarves. Layers can easily be adjusted on the fly.
If you do experience a Raynaud’s flare-up, relax in your response. Running your hands or feet under warm—not hot—water may help relieve pain and restore blood flow. Rubbing the affected area can also help get things moving again.
You may fall into this phenomenon over the next few months. If you do, don’t panic. Talk to your doctor and see if you’ve got an underlying condition. In the meantime, take the steps to limit its impact.