About Lupus

Preventive Strategies: Raynaud’s

Preventive Care Strategies: Living with Lupus
Bella Fradlis, MD
Attending Physician, Division of Rheumatology
Assistant Professor of Medicine, AECOM
Montefiore Medical Center, Jacobi Medical Center

The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation recently held a patient education workshop, Preventive Care Strategies: Living with Lupus.  This section focuses on Raynaud’s phenomenon.

What is it? Raynaud’s phenomenon is when the skin changes color (blue, white, red) after exposure to cold temperatures or with increased stress.

Where does it occur? Raynaud’s symptoms usually occur in the fingers, and sometimes toes.

What happens? Blood flow of the hands, fingers and toes is temporarily reduced, which can lead to finger swelling, color changes, numbness, pain, and skin ulcers.

What causes Raynaud’s phenomenon? Raynaud’s phenomenon is often caused by lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjögren’s syndrome. It can also be caused by medications, smoking, heart disease and injury.

Dr. Fradlis gave valuable advice on how to prevent attacks caused by Raynaud’s phenomenon. Here are some of the preventive strategies that I learned:

  • Avoid cold exposure, especially sudden changes in temperatures
  • Keep your whole body warm with layers, thermal attire, gloves, hats, etc. Put on layers before you go outside so your body doesn’t lose heat from indoors. Changes in temperature can also cause Raynaud’s.
  • Avoid wearing anything tight that decreases blood flow
  • Wear gloves or mittens when taking food out of the refrigerator or freezer
  • Heat up your car a few minutes before driving in cold weather
  • Protect your nails, and avoid injuries to your hands and feet
  • Avoid triggers such as smoking, stress, and certain medications
  • If you think you are having an attack, place your hands in a warm place on your body, move to a warmer area, rub your hands together, place your hands under warm water (not hot water), move your arms around in a windmill pattern, massage your hands and toes, or wiggle your fingers and toes

This column is not meant to substitute for medical advice from your own healthcare provider – please talk to your doctor if you have symptoms like these.  Dr. Fradlis also advises consulting your doctor if your Raynaud’s phenomenon symptoms do not go away, as you may need prescription medication to prevent attacks.

Interested in learning more about other preventive care strategies for living with lupus? Click here to watch a previous presentation Dr. Fradlis gave on about how to prevent Raynaud’s phenomenon and many other complications of lupus.

Dr. Bella Fradlis is an attending rheumatologist who divides her time between Jacobi and Montefiore medical centers, treating a variety of systemic rheumatologic conditions. She received her medical training at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. She then completed an internship year at Long Island Jewish Hospital and internal medicine residency training at Columbia University Medical Center – New York Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Fradlis completed a clinical rheumatology fellowship at Columbia University Medical Center.