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Raynauds Disease may be known as Raynaud’s Phenomenon or Raynaud’s Syndrome.

Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Pins and needles
  • Difficulty moving affected areas
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Raynauds Disease Fingertips
Blue Fingertips
Source: www.nhs.uk

Raynaud’s causes some of the extremities, fingers and toes, to feel cold and numb. This is a reaction to low temperatures or stressful situations. The small arteries that supply blood to the skin narrow limiting the blood supply to the affected areas.

However, most cases of this condition present few, if any complications. It is, generally a mild condition that requires no intervention.

But, in very rare cases, prolonged reduced blood flow can cause tissue damage.

Furthermore, a completely blocked artery leads to skin ulcers and dead tissue. If these severe complications go untreated, amputation of the affected areas may be the only course of action.

There are two types of Raynauds Disease

  1. Primary Raynauds (Raynaud’s Disease) is the most common form of the condition. As a standalone disease, it is generally very mild.
  2. Secondary Raynauds (Raynaud’s Phenomenon or Raynaud’s Syndrome) is caused by an underlying problem. It is, generally, less common but, can be more serious.

In Raynaud’s Phenomenon, blood flow to the fingers and/or toes is restricted. This causes numbness or chill in the extremities of the body, possibly including toes, fingers ears or nose. Periods of blood vessel constriction are known as vasospasms.

The most common visible symptom of these vasospasms is the discolouration of the skin in the affected area. The skin in the affected area may turn pure white and feel ice-cold.

However, when the vasospasm is over, blood flow will return and the extremities will begin to warm. As the blood circulation returns, the fingers or toes may throb and turn bright red. Not unlike the thawing fingers after a day’s skiing.

Raynauds Phenomenon
Fingertips of a person with dark skin
Source: www.nhs.uk

Primary Raynauds Disease Risk Factors

  • Gender women are much more likely to experience Raynaud’s than men.
  • Age is a factor as the condition generally develops beywwen the ages of 15 and 30
  • Climate will cause the condition to occur more frequently in residents of more temperate regions
  • Heredity links the patient to first-degree relatives. A parent, sibling or child having the disease appears to increase your risk of primary Raynaud’s.

Secondary Raynaud’s

Vasospasms caused by underlying conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or autoimmune disease is known as secondary Raynaud’s or Raynaud’s phenomenon.

The author suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS) which is an autoimmune disease and could trigger episodes of vasospasm.

Causes of Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Secondary Raynaud’s is usually brought on by an underlying problem.

  • Connective tissue diseases that lead to hardening and scarring of the skin (scleroderma) can cause Raynaud’s. Conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome can increase the risk of developing Raynaud’s.
  • Diseases of the arteries. Can cause a buildup of plaques in blood vessels that feed the heart. There is a disorder in which the blood vessels of the hands and feet become inflamed.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome involves pressure on a major nerve to your hand, producing numbness and pain in the hand.
  • Repetitive action or vibration Typing, playing the piano or other repetitive actions or operating heavy vibrating tools can trigger the syndrome.
  • Smoking constricts the blood vessels which worsens Raynaud’s

Diagnosis of Raynauds Disease

A doctor will consult your medical history and assess your physical performance. The doctor will also take a blood sample. The doctor may also perform a cold stimulation test (see Capillaroscopy), discuss your symptoms to decide if you have primary or secondary Raynaud’s

Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) found in your blood sample could indicate an increased risk of autoimmune disease.

Raynauds Disease in a Nutshell

  • Raynauds disease is caused by peripheral blood vessels overreacting to cold.
  • The condition affects 5-10 per cent of Americans.
  • Maurice Raynaud first described the disease in 1862.
  • Females and people living in colder climates are more susceptible.

Capillaroscopy to diagnose Raynauds Disease

The Cold Stimulation Test is a form of Capillaroscopy to test for Raynaud’s phenomenon.

This involves attaching a small thermometer to the fingertips, then immersing the hands in ice-water to trigger symptoms. Removing the hands from the ice-water will allow then to warm and recover. Long recovery time may indicate Raynaud.

However, the ice-water may cause some discomfort but, there will be no lasting damage.

Most of the time and for many people, Raynaud’s is a very mild condition. But, in a very few cases, the condition can be sufficiently serious to require pharmaceutical or even surgical intervention.

Sympathectomy

A surgical procedure known as a sympathectomy removes nerves around the blood vessels. The sympathectomy operates on nerves of the sympathetic nervou system. Removing nerves decrease the frequency and severity of attacks.

Drug Help

Drugs that inhibit the sympathetic nervous system can limit the vasoconstriction. Local anaesthetics can be effective, albeit temporary.

More Causes

The exact cause of Raynaud’s is unclear. However, hyperactivation of the sympathetic nervous system does narrow blood vessels or vasoconstriction.

It is quite normal in healthy individuals for the blood vessels in the extremities to narrow in order to conserve body heat. Our self-preservation mechanism will, ironically, forfeit our extremities to preserve core body temperature. Blood circulating close to the skin surface loses heat in cold weather.

In Raynaud’s the normal blood vessel contraction is excessive.

Complications

Chilblains happen when blood circulation is limited. Raynaud’s is a circulatory disease so will exacerbate chilblains.

Recap

In Raynauds disease, the blood vessels in your extremities overreact to cold or stress. For most people, it is not a serious health problem. But, for an unfortunate few, the reduced blood circulation can cause serious tissue damage.

However, it is normal, in cold weather, for the body to conserve heat by restricting blood flow to the hands and feet.

However, with Raynaud’s the blood vessels shrink more than normal, and faster than normal.

Treatment

Because Raynaud’s is an irregular reaction to cold, the treatment for most people is to stay warm.

Finally, you may be given medications to control your blood pressure. These will relax your blood vessels mitigating possible attacks.

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References

Raynaud’s NHS
Raynauds disease symptoms and causes Mayo Clinic
Raynaud’s Phenomenon Healthline
Raynauds disease Treatments, Causes, and Symptoms Medical News Today
Raynaud’s disease and Raynaud’s Syndrome – Symptoms WebMD

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Raynauds Disease and Raynaud’s Phenomenon