With Raynaud’s Awareness Month occurring in February, Scleroderma & Raynaud’s UK launch #raiseyourhands simple test to help millions affected by Raynaud’s. The test will be live on 1 February (www.sruk.co.uk/testme). 

This winter the UK is set to have the heaviest snowfall for many years, bringing misery and suffering for millions of people with Raynaud’s and Scleroderma. Many of us take it for granted that chilly hands will disappear once spring arrives, but that’s not the case for many people with Raynaud’s.

A trip down the frozen aisle of the supermarket or simply sitting in an air conditioned office anytime of the year, can trigger a painful attack for up to one in six people in the UK, living with a little known condition called Raynaud’s.

Raynaud’s is a condition that affects the blood supply in the body’s extremities – usually the fingers and toes – and many people living with the condition will regularly experience colour changes to the affected area, pain and discomfort.

Up to 10 million people in the UK are affected by Raynaud’s yet many living with the condition are not aware they have Raynaud’s or that support and treatmenti is available and left to deal with the impact alone Research from Scleroderma & Raynaud’s UK (SRUK), the only UK charity dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by Scleroderma and Raynaud’s, reveals that only 4% are able to identify the symptoms of Raynaud’s. SRUK is tackling this lack of understanding by getting everyone affected to unite and #raise your hands during February.

SRUK has launched a simple online test, accessible via their website to help identify if you may have Raynaud’s. At the end of the test you will be told if you could have Raynaud’s and the next steps to take, which could include top tips on keeping warm or downloadable information to take to your GP.

For many with Raynaud’s it will be a mild inconvenience but for 1 in 10 people affected by Raynaud’s they will go on to develop an autoimmune condition like scleroderma (which can cause disability and can be life-threatening), Arthritis or lupus, which may need further treatment and close monitoring.

Top 5 signs of Raynaud’s

  1. Cold fingers and toes
  2. Colour changes in the skin in response to cold or stress
  3. Colour changes in the affected area to white, then blue and then red
  4. Numbness, tingling or pain in the fingers and toes
  5. Stinging or throbbing pain upon warming or stress relief

Other parts of the body can be affected by Raynaud’s including the ears, nose, lips, tongue and nipples. Symptoms can last for a few minutes to several hours.

Sue Farrington, Chief Executive of SRUK, says: 

“We are encouraging more people to seek medical help and advice if they regularly experience one or more of the main symptoms which include pain, numbness or tingling in the body’s extremities.

“We know that despite a quarter of people saying that they had experienced symptoms, only 10% on average have visited their GP. This needs to change – Raynaud’s can be a minor but uncomfortable inconvenience, but for those more seriously affected by Raynaud’s or Scleroderma, it’s crucial that they seek medical treatment and support as early as possible. We hope with our online test people can self-manage the condition better, seek treatment where necessary but above all know that they are not alone, we are here to support and assist people in coping with the painful and sometimes life-changing effects of the condition.”

SRUK currently supports over twenty five thousand people in the UK living with the conditions but this is just the tip of the icebergii.

For more information on Raynaud’s, the signs to look out for, how to manage symptoms go to www.sruk.co.uk and download a Raynaud’s information pack today. To get in touch with SRUK  contact info@sruk.co.uk or call 020 7000 1925.

 

So, how can occupational therapists help?

Liaison with other team members is important. Usually, the patient will have been seen by the rheumatologist, and possibly even a clinical nurse specialist, before reaching the OT. Through liaison, valuable background information can be gathered, assisting in rapport building with, not only with the patient but also with the team.

Occupational therapists who work closely with physiotherapists will be able to offer the best therapy input for the patient.

Assessment, planning and evaluation

Assessment of the whole person
 in order to establish and plan intervention is of paramount importance to ascertain the individual’s motivations, abilities 
and needs. The aim is to work in partnership with the individual and his or her family in order to achieve and maintain optimum independence in activities of daily living. When getting milk out of the fridge or peas out of the freezer can cause an attack, it’s important to understand triggers and make sure that the patient is aware of them.

The use of a daily living assessment or checklist in conjunction with a validated, standardised, functional evaluation is recommended as it is not only useful in planning goals but also in measuring outcomes.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY INTERVENTION

Based on needs established at assessment and organs involved, Raynaud’s is largely helped using behavioural changes.

Keeping Warm

  • Wearing gloves and socks and adequate clothing to maintain body temperature
  • Assistive equipment might include the use of portable hand warmers or battery-heated socks
  • Using gloves when getting items out of the fridge or freezer
  • If hands and feet get cold, advise warming them up gently
  • Avoiding stressful situations
  • Identifying stressors and adopting cognitive behavioural strategies to cope
  • Use of relaxation and/or biofeedback therapy

Smoking

  • Advise the patient to give up smoking as this causes vasoconstriction

Occupational Hazards

  • Vibration White finger (VWF) is a Raynaud’s occupational origin, seen in people who use vibrating tools or machinery such as chain saws, pneumatic drills, hammers or polishers as part of their job. Career/job advice and task analysis may be necessary

Raynaud’s In Children

  • At school play times, children may need permission to stay in on cold days. However this shouldn’t be an excuse to avoid exercise!
  • Health and safety precautions should be taken during ‘risky sessions’ for example in the science lab or during cooking sessions – cold or numb hands could get burnt.
  • Take care when showering or bathing, check the water temperature

SRUK support

You can request a poster to put up in your clinic and share information with patients to help raise awareness. There is various support information on our website too for you and your patients so please view our factsheets on keeping warm, Raynaud’s or other conditions linked to Raynaud’s, such as scleroderma.