Cold Fingers and Toes?

You could have Raynaud’s! Here’s how to get relief.

Lindsay Bosslett
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cold fingers, cold toes, Raynaud’s, Sjögren, rheumatoid arthritis

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or Sjögren’s syndrome, there’s a chance those tingly-cold fingers and toes are caused by Raynaud’s, a condition marked by spasms in the arteries of the extremities. Raynaud’s can also cause your fingers and toes to go numb or change color whenever you're cold or stressed. The sensation can make being outside on a cold day, or just sitting in an air-conditioned room, uncomfortable or even unbearable.

Talk to your healthcare team if you’re bothered by cold extremities; certain medications can control spasms and provide relief. And try these tips to ease the condition on your own!

Layer, layer, layer.
One of the best ways to prevent a Raynaud’s reaction is to keep your core body temperature stable. This can be especially challenging in the fall, when outdoor temps may be cool in the mornings and evenings but warm midday. So be sure to don a T-shirt under your sweater or take along a light jacket if you’re going out midday, so you can bundle up if need be.

Get a pair of cute mittens.
If the weather outside is frightful, hand coverings are an absolute must for those with Raynaud’s. Mittens actually work better than gloves to keep symptoms at bay, as your fingers can better warm each other when they’re not separated by cloth. (Note: The same concept goes for your toes, so avoid “toe socks” and stick to the traditional thick cotton sort.)

Keep this near your freezer.
It’s an assistive grabbing device! Made for people who cannot reach or grab well, these devices can help you avoid putting your hands into the sub-zero temps of your freezer, which can trigger a Raynaud’s attack in some people. Look for them at medical supply stores. Tip: Don’t forget to take it when you go food shopping, in case you need something in the freezer section!

No cold rinses.
Whether you’re cleaning dishes, rinsing off produce or washing your hands, be sure the water is warm before putting your hands under the stream. (The same goes when you’re taking a shower.) In fact, if you begin to experience a Raynaud’s attack and you’re near a sink, quickly soaking hands in warm water can help circulation return to normal.

Kick the butts!
Smoking restricts blood vessels, especially the smaller ones in your fingers and toes.

Test out your “jazz hands.”
If you do feel your hands or toes getting cold, try to wiggle them around a bit to increase circulation. It may even help to get up and go for a short walk to boost the circulation throughout your body. If you’re somewhere you can’t move around a lot—at a movie, say—placing your hands under your armpits or between your knees can also help.

Source: Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation.

October 2013