Managing Raynaud’s Phenomenon When You Have Sjogren’s
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks glands that produce secretions such as tears and saliva. Symptoms include dryness in the mouth and throat, eyes, skin, vagina, and other organs. This dryness leads to irritation, soreness, and pain.
Approximately 15%–30% of Sjogren’s syndrome patients experience Raynaud’s phenomenon, which causes decreased blood supply to the fingers and/or toes. These vasospasms are a response to cold temperatures or emotional stress. During a Raynaud’s attack, the fingers and/or toes first turn white, then blue, and finally become red once the blood flow resumes.
If you have Raynaud’s phenomenon, here are some tips that may help you manage the symptoms.
Use appropriate clothing
Warm temperatures can minimize the chances of vasospasms. Make sure you keep yourself warm at all times by wearing layered clothing. Cover your face and ears with a scarf and your feet with heavy socks when going out in cold temperatures.
Do not handle cold objects with bare hands
Wear mittens or insulated gloves while handling cold objects. Avoid handling items in the freezer at home or at the grocery store whenever possible.
Avoid abrupt changes in ambient temperature
Changes in ambient temperatures, such as moving from warm air to an air-conditioned room, can cause Raynaud’s flares so avoid such drastic temperature changes. Keep your home or office space warm at all times, ideally above 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees Celsius.
Avoid smoking and caffeine intake
Smoking and caffeine intake can have vasoconstrictive effects, or cause narrowing of blood vessels, which can lead to Raynaud’s phenomenon. Therefore, avoid them as much as possible, and limit the time you spend in places where others are smoking.
Take immediate action to control an attack
If you experience a Raynaud’s attack, take immediate steps to control it. Helpful activities include running warm water over fingers and toes till the skin returns to normal, or wiggling arms and toes to promote blood flow.
Consider appropriate medications
Those experiencing Raynaud’s phenomenon may benefit from calcium channel blockers such as nifedipine, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors such as lisinopril, or phosphodiesterase inhibitors such as sildenafil. Consult your doctor before taking any medications as certain decongestants, such as Sudafed (pseudoephedrine), can worsen existing symptoms.
Talk to your doctor
If symptoms persist, talk to your doctor to devise a suitable therapy. Apart from the medications mentioned above, your doctor may also recommend nerve surgery (cutting the nerves that may be worsening the narrowing of blood vessels) or Botox injections, depending on the severity of Raynaud’s flares. However, remember that these approaches are experimental and lead to variable responses.
Last updated: March 5, 2020
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