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What is Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

Written by Courteney

Posted on November 30, 2016 at 11:00 pm


Raynaud’s is a blood vessel disorder that causes more rapid, responsive and extreme vasoconstriction when exposed to cold. It primarily targets the blood vessels in the fingertips and toes, often changing the color of the affected areas. There are two types of Raynaud’s: primary, which has no underlying condition triggering it and secondary Raynaud’s, which is linked to a larger underlying (usually autoimmune) condition. Let’s take a look at some facts about Raynaud’s:

  • The most common form, primary Raynaud’s, is usually milder and shows up earlier in life. It is referred to ask Raynaud’s disease.
  • Secondary Raynaud’s, more often referred to as Raynaud’s phenomenon is more severe as it is triggered by a comorbid disease and often comes on later in life.
  • Most Raynaud’s attacks are caused by exposure to cold temperatures or episodes of great stress.
  • Raynaud’s affected fingers and toes usually change color when exposed to cold because of decreased blood flow or vasospasm. Often the fingers or toes will turn white, then red or blue when starting to thaw. This is usually a highly unpleasant sensation.
  • Secondary Raynaud’s can be triggered by such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lupus or other arthritic, autoimmune conditions.
  • Niacin (also known as vitamin B3) can help increase blood flow for those with Raynaud’s, but be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any supplements.
  • Symptoms include: pain, tingling, numbness, freezing, throbbing and discoloration.
  • Both types of Raynaud’s usually affect the hands and feet. Less commonly, Raynaud’s can affect the ears, nose, lips, nipples and knees.
  • Smoking and certain medications can cause or worsen Raynaud’s as well.
  • Attacks usually only last minutes, but can last several hours in extreme cases.
  • In serious cases (usually with secondary Raynaud’s) open sores can result from the vasospasms, potentially even leading to amputation.
  • Diagnosis of Raynaud’s can be made by ruling out other similar conditions via blood tests, or performing a nailfold capillaroscopy test (when the capillaries under the nails are examined via microscope), or a cold stimulation test whereby the doctor will attempt to induce an attack by intentionally exposing the patient’s hands to cold water.
  • Treatment of Raynaud’s mostly consists of prevention. Some of the key ways to prevent attacks are to: keep the hands and feet as warm as possible at all times, engage in stress management to reduce the number of stress attacks, quit smoking and to exercise regularly to help increase blood flow. These measures should help reduce frequency and severity of attacks which will help limit damage to the extremities.

If you have symptoms of Raynaud’s, be sure to see your doctor for further evaluation to rule out any serious underlying conditions as Raynaud’s is often the first symptom of a larger autoimmune disease. Thanks for visiting DocChat!

 

 

 

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