Raynaud's

Raynaud's disease is a condition that causes smaller arteries that supply blood to your fingers and toes to spasm (narrow), limiting the local blood circulation. Women are more often affected than men. It's also more common in people who live in colder climates.

Some people have a very sensitive vascular system with arteries that constrict more quickly with cold. In extreme situations this can lead to something called Raynaud's phenomenon or disease, a vasospastic disorder causing discoloration of the fingers, toes, and occasionally other areas, because of a decreased blood supply to the respective regions. Emotional stress and cold are classic triggers of the phenomenon. During an attack affected areas  usually turn white at first, then often blue and feel cold and numb. As circulation improves again, they may turn red, throb, tingle or swell.

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Thus, Raynaud's disease symptoms include:

  • Cold fingers and toes
  • Color changes in response to cold or stress
  • Numb, prickly feeling or stinging pain upon warming or relief of stress

Causes of Raynaud's disease (prtimary Raynaud's) include cold temperatures and stress.

Raynaud's phenomenon (secondary Raynaud):

  • Auto immune disease such as
    • Scleroderma.
    • Lupus erythematosus
    • Rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Sjogren's syndrome.
  • Atherosclerosis.
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Smoking.
  • Injuries to the hands or feet, including a previous wrist fracture or frostbite.
  • Certain medications including beta blockers; some migraine medications that contain ergotamine; medications containing estrogen; certain chemotherapy agents; and drugs that cause blood vessels to narrow, such as some over-the-counter cold medications.

Diagnosis

Sometimes, certain patterns in the capillaries adjacent to fingernails of patients with can be seen using a simple magnifying glass. Abnormal nail-folds capillary patterns can suggest the possibility of an associated rheumatic condition. There is, however, no single blood test to help the doctor to confirm the diagnosis. The doctor can order blood tests to exclude associated rheumatic diseases and thyroid disorders.

Treatment of Raynaud's disease depends on its severity and whether there are any other health conditions. For most people, Raynaud's disease is more a nuisance than a disability:

  • Avoid environmental triggers, e.g. cold, vibration, etc. Emotional stress is another recognized trigger; although the various sources of stress can not all be avoided, it is possible to learn healthier, more effective ways of dealing with them, which will reduce stress and its damaging physical effects.
  • Keep your hands, feet and head warm—especially your fingers, toes, ears, and nose — by wearing mittens, insulated footwear, a ski mask; or using hand and foot warmers, etc.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants.

If medications are necessary, calcium channel blockers are often used.