Raynaud's: Top tips for working with cold fingers

Love your Gloves Awareness Month posterFebruary is statistically the coldest month of the year. It's also Raynaud's Awareness Month. Raynaud's Phenomenon affects up to 10 million people in the UK and sees the small blood vessels in the extremities constrict more readily, which can lead to fingers and toes feeling extremely cold and numb.

The phenomenon can be triggered by an alteration in temperature, emotional changes, stress, hormones or using vibrating tools, according to the Raynaud's and Scleroderma Association.

Cold hands and tingling fingers can make it impossible to use a standard computer keyboard, so as well as making sure a workspace is warm enough what other ways can technology help someone with Raynaud's?

Living with Raynaud's

Ellie, who has a version known as Secondary Raynaud's and Systemic Scleroderma (SSc) along with Ehlers Danlos Type III (unconnected), is learning to manage the condition.

“Since I can remember I’ve always had hands that felt a bit ‘dead’. I went to the doctors because I heard there were possible treatments for Raynaud’s," she says. 

“My employers have been a fantastic support and we have sat together and agreed adjustments to help me in my role - from little things, like ensuring I am seated away from draughts, to bigger things - like agreeing circumstances where I feel I need to work from home, where they provided me with equipment to do so."

Adjusting technology to help with Raynaud's

Mary Steiner, an AbilityNet assessor in the Midlands, feels the important thing is to keep the working environment warm, but there are some other adjustments that can be made to make life easier.

One thing to look at, she says, is using voice recognition software to dictate to the computer, and minimise the need to type or use the mouse. However not everyone will want to do this, or find it practical in their situation, and there are other options.

“I saw a client who worked all day in a call centre and she found that gripping the mouse made things worse because it further reduced the circulation to her fingers.

"She was having to stop working for 10 or 20 minutes each time her fingers went numb until the feeling returned, so we recommended a flatter, larger mouse which didn't require as much grip.

Tailored support for Raynauld's

“Another was a student whose fingers were sore and cracked because of Raynaud's, so I recommended a soft foam pen grip," says Mary.

The assessor says these adjustments won’t stop the symptoms happening, but it’s sometimes about using a "mixture of little things which each help to improve the situation", she explains.

Raynaud's: A quick guide to helpful tools

Voice recognition software can help people who are having difficulty using a keyboardAbilityNet assessors suggest the following could help those with the phenomenon work more easily - 

  • A heater
  • Heated mouse
  • Heated gloves
  • Fingerless gloves
  • Voice recognition software
  • Word prediction software
  • Light / soft touch keyboard
  • Ergonomic pens
  • Foam pen grips

Use My Computer My Way to learn more about the ways that you can adjust your computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone for more comfortable working.

Need help adapting your equipment at home, work or college?

Call AbilityNet's free Helpline on: 0800 269 545.

Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution.

Get help at work

Every employer must provide Reasonable Adjustments to accommodate the needs of employees. This could mean support to use the tools we've suggested, or changes to your duties when Raynaud's is affecting your work.

Use Clear Talents On Demand to let your manager know what would help you be more productive. It's free and confidential.

Get help at home

Our network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers can help people with disabilities deal with computer problems at home, either on the phone or in person.

* Ellie's quote has been edited from a longer case study on the Raynaud's and Schleroderma Association website here

Photo: Raynaud's Awareness Month poster by Raynaud's & Scleroderma Association

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