QSinceI was a teenager (I am now 34) I have suffered from really poor circulation — as do several members of my family. My feet and hands go almost blue in the winter, even indoors; they feel quite solid and it can get quite painful. Is there anything I can do to improve my circulation generally?
DR DAN RUTHERFORD WRITES:
AYouare describing Raynaud’s phenomenon, which is due to excessive spasm of the small blood vessels of the skin in the hands and feet. When exposed to cold it is normal for the skin blood vessels to contract, thus reducing the loss of body heat through the skin. In Raynaud’s, the vessels contract more vigorously and for a longer time. The condition can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in young adult women and it is not unusual to have a family history. The cause is unknown in most people but in a minority there is an underlying problem causing inflammation of the arteries — your doctor can check this. General measures to treat Raynaud’s include avoiding smoking or abrupt changes of temperature. Drugs to open the blood vessels can be helpful, such as nifedipine (which is usually used to treat high blood pressure or angina). Surgery to cut the nerves to the blood vessels can be offered to people severely affected. For more information see www.raynauds.org.uk.
TONY GALLAGHER WRITES:
AInterms of physical activity, try to do primarily cardiovascular exercises like running, swimming, and dancing — these all promote better circulation. Rotating your hands, feet and ankles at every opportunity should make a difference. Soaking your hands and feet in warm water or massaging them may help, too.
It may seem obvious but try to keep feet warm by always wearing dry socks. Some people find it helpful to wear mittens and socks to bed during winter. Wear a hat as much heat is lost through your scalp.
If you feel that emotional upsets and stress can trigger an attack, learning to recognise and to avoid stressful situations may help control the condition. Finally, if you smoke, this can cause the skin temperature to fall, so that may be something to be considered also.