Cold feet are common in the winter, but patients with Raynaud's disease can experience cold or numbness in their feet at any time of the year. If your feet suddenly go from warm to freezing after cold exposure, in stressful situations, or during a sharp increase in physical activity, you may be suffering from Raynaud's disease.
What Is Raynaud's Disease?
Raynaud's disease, also known as Raynaud's phenomenon or syndrome, is a disorder that causes the blood vessels to constrict, cutting off blood flow to the extremities. Attacks are often triggered by physical and emotional stress, such as plunging into cold water or walking long distances.
As the blood vessels spasm, the feet become cold, numb, or even painful, and may take on a white or blue appearance. As the attack subsides, patients may experience "pins and needles" in their lower limbs as their blood vessels open up again.
In most cases, attacks of Raynaud's do not cause permanent damage. However, they may increase the risk of foot ulcers in some patients, especially those suffering from diabetes. Impaired circulation prevents the broken skin from healing, causing sores on a patient's feet or toes to become infected. Without treatment, patients could suffer gangrene, loss of a toe, or amputation of the foot.
Common Treatments for Raynaud's Disease
Raynaud's disease may not cause physical disability, but it can still affect a patient's quality of life. Our podiatrists can help relieve your discomfort and work to avoid long-term complications of impaired circulation.
If you are experiencing symptoms of Raynaud's disease, our foot and ankle doctors can help you control or avoid flare-ups by:
- Discovering an underlying condition. Finding the likely cause of your Raynaud's flare-ups allows you to treat the condition rather than simply addressing its symptoms. While the exact cause of Raynaud's syndrome is unknown, it has been linked to a variety of diseases and health conditions. Patients with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or Sjogren's syndrome are particularly at risk of Raynaud's symptoms. Arterial diseases, scleroderma (hardening of the skin), and previous fractures could also be causing flare-ups.
- Maintaining your body temperature. There are many ways to protect yourself from sudden exposure to the cold, even as the weather and your environments change. In the winter, you should dress warmly in multiple layers, including gloves and thick socks to protect your extremities. You may choose to wear socks to bed to keep your temperature constant as your sleep. We can offer personalized tips on easing the transition between hot and cold environments, such as starting your car's heater and seat warmers a few minutes before driving.
- Creating an exercise regimen. Exercise is one of the best ways to boost circulation, forcing your blood down to your extremities before cycling back to the heart. We can create a routine focused on managing your symptoms and reducing your stress.
- Exploring dietary changes. Some foods and chemicals that constrict blood vessels can have adverse effects on Raynaud's patients. Caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes could potentially trigger a Raynaud's attack. We can help devise a healthy and sustainable diet to improve mobility and lessen symptoms.
- Examining medication options. Some patients benefit from prescription drugs to help control Raynaud's symptoms and treat their underlying diseases or illnesses.
- Prescribing at-home treatments. Encouraging blood flow to the feet through massage, moisturizing the feet, wiggling the toes, and other daily habits can help keep symptoms at bay. If you do have a flare-up, you can help get the blood flowing again by finding a warm place to sit and soak your feet in warm (not hot) water.
Our podiatrists can diagnose the cause of your cold feet and identify any problems that could trigger an attack or make the condition worse. Let the foot and ankle specialists at Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry help you find the right solution to get you back on your feet. Simply fill out our online contact form or call us at (301) 515-FEET to set up your free initial consultation.