Mary, a 75-year-old woman with scleroderma, noticed that her fingers were often cold whenever she visited the doctor. Before appointments, she worried about what her doctor would find and if her disease was progressing. Her doctor noticed her nervousness—and her cold fingers. After performing some tests to rule out other problems, Mary’s doctor told her that she was experiencing Raynaud’s phenomenon.
What is Raynaud’s Phenomenon?
Raynaud’s phenomenon is also called Raynaud’s disease or Raynaud’s syndrome. It is often a symptom of another condition, such as scleroderma. When a person with Raynaud’s gets cold or feels stressed, the blood vessels that feed certain parts of the body, such as the toes and fingers, constrict. When this happens, the area does not get enough blood and the area feels cold and numb.
While other things can trigger Raynaud’s (e.g., some medications, stress, smoking), cold is the most common trigger. It’s normal for the body to restrict blood flow to the skin so that it can keep other parts of the body warm. However, when a person has Raynaud’s, the body restricts the blood flow more than necessary. Fingers and toes might even turn white or blue. When blood starts to return to the area, it may turn red. The person may feel throbbing and pain. Most of the time, the phenomenon only lasts a few minutes. However, at other times it may last for up to an hour.
What Can Be Done to Manage Symptoms?
Raynaud’s has not cure, but there are ways a doctor can treat the symptoms. Doctors may prescribe medications to reduce the number and severity of attacks and to prevent tissue damage. There are also several things that can be done at home to deal with Raynaud’s. Some of the things family caregivers and senior care providers can do to assist a senior experiencing Raynaud’s are:
- Keep hands warm: Senior care providers and family caregivers can help the senior to put warm, soft mittens or gloves on. Or, wrap hands in a warm towel. A hot cup of tea or hot chocolate to wrap the fingers around may also help.
- Use warm water: Soaking the hands or feet in warm water can help relieve a Raynaud’s attack. Senior care providers can assist by preparing the basin of warm water and bringing it to where the senior is sitting.
- Handle frozen foods carefully: If the senior must handle frozen foods, they should wear gloves before doing so. Alternatively, a senior care provider can prepare meals that involve frozen foods.
Raynaud’s attacks can be a nuisance and are sometimes quite uncomfortable. Learning how to handle them can make them more bearable for seniors.
IF YOU OR AN AGING SENIOR ARE CONSIDERING IN-HOME SENIOR CARE IN GARDEN CITY, ID, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT HOME HELPERS HOME CARE OF BOISE. CALL US: (208) 322-2668.
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