Raynauds disease

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Overview

In response to cold temperatures, the body adapts by restricting blood flow to the skin. This is done as a thermoregulating mechanism to prevent further loss of body heat and to sustain the core body temperature. In Raynaud phenomenon, blood-flow restriction occurs during cold temperatures and emotional stress. Specifically, in Raynaud phenomenon, there is vasoconstriction of the digital arteries and cutaneous arterioles. This phenomenon was first described by Maurice Raynaud in 1862 and later studied by Sir Thomas Lewis in 1930. Overall, Raynaud phenomenon is a transient and peripheral vasoconstrictive response to cold temperatures or emotional stress. Raynaud phenomenon can be categorized as either primary or secondary.

Symptoms

A person with Raynaud's phenomenon can experience three phases of skin color changes: white (pallor), blue (cyanosis) and red (rubor). There is not a set order to the changes in skin color and not all people experience all three skin colorations.

Pallor (whiteness) may occur in response to the collapse of the arteries in an affected body part.

Cyanosis (blueness) appears because the fingers or toes are not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Other symptoms that occur during cyanosis are feeling cold and numbness.

Rubor (redness) occurs as the blood returns to the affected areas. After an attack is over, throbbing and tingling may occur in the fingers and toes. Attacks of Raynaud's Phenomenon can last from less than a minute to several hours.

Causes

Connective tissue diseases. ...

Diseases of the arteries. ...

Carpal tunnel syndrome. ...

Repetitive action or vibration. ...

Smoking. ...

Injuries to the hands or feet. ...

Certain medications.

Risk factors

A connective tissue or autoimmune disease.

Chemical exposure.

Cigarette smoking.

Injury or trauma.

Repetitive actions, such as typing or use of tools that vibrate like a jack hammer.

Side effects from certain medicines.

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Complications

If secondary Raynaud's is severe — which is rare — reduced blood flow to your fingers or toes could cause tissue damage.

A completely blocked artery can lead to sores (skin ulcers) or dead tissue, both of which can be difficult to treat. Rarely, extreme untreated cases might require removing the affected part of your body.

Prevention

To help prevent Raynaud's attacks:

Bundle up outdoors. When it's cold, don a hat, scarf, socks and boots, and two layers of mittens or gloves before you go outside. Wear a coat with snug cuffs to go around your mittens or gloves, to prevent cold air from reaching your hands.

Also use chemical hand warmers. Wear earmuffs and a face mask if the tip of your nose and your earlobes are sensitive to cold.

Warm your car. Run your car heater for a few minutes before driving in cold weather.

Take precautions indoors. Wear socks. When taking food out of the refrigerator or freezer, wear gloves, mittens or oven mitts. Some people find it helpful to wear mittens and socks to bed during winter.

Because air conditioning can trigger attacks, set your air conditioner to a warmer temperature. Use insulated drinking glasses.