Cold-Related Injuries #6 – Raynaud’s Disease

Raynaud’s Disease:

This is also a non-freezing cold injury. 
It is a hypersensitivity reaction to cold exposure.
It is more of a nuisance than a limb-threatening injury.
This condition has been caused by chronic cold exposure and, for some unknown reason, the peripheral circulation has now developed an exaggerated response to the cold which now occurs at warmer temperatures, i.e., not as cold as it used to have to be.  The peripheral circulation in the hands and/or feet will now overreact and vasoconstrict or close down too much.
So, the response is too early and too much.
Upon rewarming, there is also an exaggerated response: the skin will turn red, and painful.  The extremity may also throb with pain during the rewarming process.
Once rewarmed the tissues should return to normal.

Treatment of Raynaud’s:

Avoid and limit cold exposure.
Keep the affected areas well-insulated, warm, and dry.
Avoid nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and over-the-counter decongestants.
Drugs:  may try calcium channel blockers for their vasodilatory effects.
 Eg:  Nifedine XL 30 – 90mg po qd, or diltiazem 30 – 120mg po qid.
“Pavlovian” response trials, also known as Murray’s Method (for Dr. Murray Hamlet),  a technique to re-educate the nerves affecting the vasculature.

Rehabbing Raynaud’s or Murray’s Method:

Equipment: 2 – 4 Styrofoam coolers, 2 for hands + 2 for feet.
Warm water.
Warm inside & cool, <32°F (0°C) outside.
Fill the Styrofoam coolers with warm water, 105°F – 110°F, one set inside and one set outside.
Start inside, dressed lightly so that you are comfortable, and sit with your hands or feet in the warm water for about 5 mintues; then, get up and go outside.  Stay lightly dressed, and put your hands or feet in the warm water outside, for 5 – 10 minutes. 
For this to work your body has to be able to cool off while your hands and feet stay warm.  This is the re-education process.
You have to repeat this process about 50 times.  It seems to be most effective when you do this about 5 times a day, every other day.

Click on the images below to see full size.

raynauds-2-for-blog.gif   raynauds-1-for-blog.gif

For more detailed information on Raynaud’s Disease see the Jan/Feb 2005 issue of the Wilderness Medicine Newsletter, Non-Freezing Cold Injuries.  Click on this link to learn more about or subscribe to the Wilderness Medicine Newsletter.

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