​Raynaud’s Syndrome: Understanding and Coping with the Phenomenon

Posted by Lauren Harrod on 24th Apr 2024

​Raynaud’s Syndrome: Understanding and Coping with the Phenomenon

What is Raynaud’s Syndrome?

Raynaud’s Syndrome, also known as Raynaud’s Phenomenon, is a disorder that affects the small blood vessels in your fingers, toes, and sometimes other extremities like the nose, lips, or ears. During a Raynaud’s attack, these blood vessels become overly sensitive to changes in temperature, stress, or anxiety. The result? Episodic spasms, called vasospastic attacks, which cause the affected areas to turn white, then blue, and finally red. These color changes occur due to reduced blood flow and oxygen supply to the skin.

Causes of Raynaud’s Syndrome

Primary Raynaud’s Syndrome (Raynaud’s Disease)

Unknown Cause: This form occurs independently and isn’t linked to an underlying disease.

Mild Symptoms: Skin color changes, numbness, and pins-and-needles sensations are common. 

Secondary Raynaud’s Syndrome (Raynaud’s Phenomenon)

Underlying Conditions: Linked to other diseases, conditions, medications, or lifestyle factors.

Varied Severity: Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and it may lead to skin ulcers or gangrene.

As someone with Raynaud’s, you may experience some symptoms when entering cold water, but as your body temperature adjusts and the vigorous activity of swimming warms you up, you are likely to be able to swim without an attack. For many, it’s getting out of the water that can result in a sudden onset of symptoms, including skin discoloration, throbbing, tingling, numbness, pain, and even swelling. For severe cases, symptoms can last for many hours.

So what can people with Raynaud’s do to be able to enjoy the fun of swimming and watersports, but also prevent painful and frustrating attacks? Here are a few swimming tips:

Post-Swim Care

Exiting the water can be a critical time for individuals with Raynaud’s Syndrome. The sudden change from being in cold water to the air, even on a warm day, can trigger symptoms. Here’s how to manage:

Immediate Actions After Swimming:

Remove Your Wetsuit Promptly: As soon as you’re out of the water, take off your wetsuit to avoid trapped moisture which can cool your body rapidly.

Dry Off Quickly: Use a towel to dry your skin thoroughly, paying special attention to your extremities.

Warming Up:

Warm Beverages: Have a thermos with a hot drink ready to help raise your internal body temperature1.

Layered Clothing: Put on several layers of clothes as soon as possible. Start with a base layer that wicks away moisture, add insulating layers, and finish with a windproof layer to shield against the chill.

Additional Tips:

Sunlight: If it’s sunny, sit in a sunbeam to naturally absorb warmth.

Ginger: Consume raw ginger, which can be warming. Consider having it in tea or juiced.

Shower Timing: Wait until all Raynaud’s symptoms have subsided before taking a warm shower to avoid temperature shock.

Rash Vest: Wear a rash vest under your wetsuit for an extra layer of warmth during your swim.

Long-Term Management:

Regular Exercise: Maintain a regular exercise routine to improve overall circulation.

Stress Management: Practice relaxation techniques to manage stress, which can be a trigger for Raynaud’s attacks.

Remember, everyone’s experience with Raynaud’s can be different, so it’s important to find what works best for you. Always consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice and before making any significant changes to your routine or treatment plan. Stay warm and safe!

Note: These tips are compiled from various sources and personal experiences shared by individuals with Raynaud’s Syndrome. They are intended for informational purposes and should not replace professional medical advice.