Ten cold-weather clues for coping with Raynaud's

Lupus Foundation of America

Resource Content

Raynaud’s disease, or phenomenon, causes narrowing of the blood vessels, most commonly in the fingers and toes. When blood can’t get to the surface of the skin, the affected areas turn white and blue. When the blood flow returns, the skin turns red and throbs or tingles. This condition often occurs in people with an overlying disease such as lupus. In severe cases, skin infections or skin ulcers can develop. Medications may be prescribed to relax the blood vessels. However, in most cases, the best form of treatment is preventing the symptoms.

Here are our top suggestions:

  1. When you plan to be outdoors, dress warmly and in layers— loose-fitting clothing will allow better circulation, than tight-fitting. Wear a coat, a hat, and warm socks. And use mittens instead of gloves, so cold air can’t get between your fingers.
  2. If your hands or feet become chilled, soak them in warm (not hot) water.
  3. Use mittens when taking anything out of a freezer.
  4. Keep a supply of hand and foot warmers—you can find them in sporting goods departments.
  5. Avoid long periods of sitting and standing, which constrict the veins and increases venous pressure. And try to break the habit of crossing your legs when you’re seated.
  6. Get regular exercise to help keep blood vessels wide open. Take a walk for at least 10 minutes every hour; rotate your ankles and feet whenever possible; point and flex your toes to promote circulation in your legs and feet. Bicycling and swimming are other low-impact ways to improve circulation.
  7. Don’t smoke or spend time in locations where others are smoking. Smoking narrows blood vessels even more.
  8. Limit your use of tools that vibrate, such as an electric hand mixer or power tools.
  9. Avoid decongestant medications such as Sudafed® and any amphetamine-type medication such as Provigil® and Adderall®.
  10. Maintain an appropriate body weight for your frame. Being overweight can strain the circulatory system. If you’re unsure of your ideal weight, talk to your doctor.