In honor of Raynaud’s Awareness Month, organized by the Raynaud’s Association, we wanted to take a look at some myths surrounding the phenomenon. While many are affected by Raynaud’s there is a lot of misinformation about it. From the idea that people can lose fingers and toes to the assumption it’s merely a nuisance, here are some myths about Raynaud’s and the truth behind them as noted in an article from the Raynaud’s Association.
- Raynaud’s is rare. While it might be unknown to those who don’t have it, Raynaud’s is not a rare phenomenon. It’s estimated that 5 to 10 percent of the population – 15 to 30 million people – suffer from Raynaud’s. In order to qualify as a rare disease, less than 200,000 people would have to be affected by it.
- Only toes and fingers are affected. Yes, fingers and toes are the most typically affected areas of the body when it comes to Raynaud’s, but that doesn’t make them the only things that can suffer symptoms. Raynaud’s can impact any extremity including ears, nose, breasts, and tongue due to the body’s response to cold. When the body experiences cold temperatures, it begins to shut down blood flow to outer parts of the body to protect the core and vital organs, therefore those with Raynaud’s can experience symptoms in any extremity.
- It’s just a nuisance. Raynaud’s is an actual medical condition, though those who do not suffer from it may consider it to be merely a nuisance. There are actionable steps that Raynaud’s sufferers can take to prevent or manage attacks, though oftentimes doctors don’t approach the condition with that attitude or provide information. A little-known fact is that Raynaud’s can be a conditioned response meaning the more attacks you have the more you’re likely to have. By avoiding attacks in the first place, you can limit your risk of additional episodes. If you don’t develop a consistent action plan, repeated attacks can actually cause permanent damage.
- Staying warm is the only treatment. While staying warm can definitely help someone suffering from Raynaud’s, it’s not the only way to treat the condition. There is no medication that can cure Raynaud’s or completely eliminate attacks, but there are drugs on the market that can decrease its severity. In addition to medical options, taking a holistic approach can also yield results. Practicing self-care through relaxation techniques like bio feedback and tai chi can have measurable effects for those suffering from Raynaud’s.
- There’s a risk for losing fingers and toes. There’s information out there that suggests a majority of Raynaud’s sufferers are at risk for losing their fingers and toes to gangrene as a result of the phenomenon. That’s just not true. Less than 10 percent of sufferers have severe issues associated with additional serious autoimmune diseases and of those a small fraction have extreme issues with potential loss of extremities. The typical Raynaud’s sufferer who isn’t affected by skin lesions as a result of another disease has no risk of losing fingers or toes because of the phenomenon.