Staying warm the biggest worry with Raynaud’s

Dear Dr. Gott: Do you have any information on Raynaud’s disease? Is there anything that can help? This is in my fingers and toes.

Dear Reader: Raynaud’s phenomenon is a disorder of the small blood vessels within the body that supply the skin with oxygenated blood. It commonly affects women between the ages of 15 and 50. When the condition is present, the arteries involved contract briefly. This, in turn, limits blood flow. When the skin is deprived of blood, it turns white, then blue, and skin temperature is affected. As a general rule, there is no pain, but numbing or prickly sensations can occur. As the arteries relax, blood flow returns and the skin turns pink again. The condition is temporary. Raynaud’s can attack the nose, ears, hands and feet. There are two forms of Raynaud’s, primary and secondary. When caused by another disease or risk factor because of lifestyle such as smoking, it is referred to as secondary.
With exposure to cold temperatures, the hands and feet can lose heat rapidly. As a means of heat conservation, the body reduces blood flow to the extremities by narrowing the arteries that supply them with blood, shunting it back to more strategic areas. Thus, people diagnosed with Raynaud’s are overly susceptible to cold temperatures because of the body’s natural pattern for maintaining heat.
Triggers are stress, some migraine medications, scleroderma, systemic lupus, pulmonary hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, injury and more.
Attacks can be prevented by maintaining body heat, discontinuing smoking, biofeedback and through prevention of cuts, bruises and other injuries. Those exposed to cold outdoor temperatures should wear warm socks and gloves or mittens, a hat and scarf or other face covering to protect the nose. Even when indoors, floors and temperatures can be cooler. Wear slippers or socks, and keep your hands warm through movement. Exercise, stretching, card shuffling, working on a jigsaw puzzle and food preparation are but a few possible ways of maintaining good blood flow. In severe cases, a person might even choose to wear gloves when removing food from the refrigerator to stave off an attack. Since each person has specific triggers because of lifestyle, it is important to identify what brings on an attack and to learn ways to keep appendages warm. Your physician should be consulted for his or her input on other methods of prevention.

DEAR DR. GOTT: I am experiencing dry mouth. What are the causes and what can I do to overcome it? My doctor did blood work, and I don’t have Sjogren’s syndrome.

DEAR READER: There are countless causes for dry mouth. I will review a few of the more common possibilities. Medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, are often to blame. Are you on any decongestant, antihistamine, antihypertensive, anxiety or anti-diarrheal medication? Are you elderly? Do you have a history of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer or stroke? Do you smoke, snore or are you a mouth breather? Review my list of possibilities to determine if you fall into any of the categories. If medication might be to blame, speak with your physician regarding switching or discontinuing for a period of time. Limit your caffeine intake, discontinue any mouthwash that contains alcohol, brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, sip water throughout the day, chew sugar-free gum, and consider putting a humidifier in your sleeping area.
To provide related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Consumer Tips on Medicine.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order to Newsletter, P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title or print an order form off my Web site at www.AskDrGottMD.com.

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