Raynaud's Syndrome & Disease

Raynaud's phenomenon is an exaggerated form of vasoconstriction — the body's natural response to cold and stress. It results from a spasm of the small arteries that supply blood to the fingers. This spasm temporarily decreases blood flow, resulting in cold, painful, and discolored fingers.

What You Need To Know About Raynaud's Syndrome & Disease

What is Raynaud's Syndrome & Disease?

Raynaud's disease causes arteries to become more narrow and limits blood circulation. Most people afflicted with the condition have the most troubles in their fingers and toes. The restricted blood flow can lead to internal damage, and the condition is often more severe in colder temperatures or during periods of stress.

Affected toes and fingers may become cold, painful, and discolored. In extreme cases, the loss of blood flow will result in sores and tissue death. The cause of the condition is unknown. There are two subtypes of Raynaud's: Raynaud's disease and Raynaud's phenomenon/syndrome.

Primary: Raynaud's Disease

Raynaud's disease happens without any illness behind the symptoms, and it is often confused with Raynaud's phenomenon. The condition is most common in young women, and symptoms typically appear in cold or stressful environments. The vasoconstriction in the fingers from the illness is often mild, and people with primary Raynaud's don't usually seek treatment. The disease is still a mystery for medical professionals, and the condition's underlying cause is not fully understood.

Secondary: Raynaud's Phenomenon/Syndrome

Diseases that compromise the vascular system or connective tissues in the hands, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, and arterial disease, are linked to Raynaud's. Secondary Raynaud's is less common than Raynaud's disease, but symptoms are more debilitating, usually starting to appear around age 40.

People diagnosed with the condition should seek immediate medical attention before serious health problems develop, such as skin sores or gangrene. The lack of blood circulation to fingers and toes may cause cells and tissues to become impaired or die.

Getting treatment for hand and wrist conditions starts with visiting the experts at Resurgens Orthopaedics Hand & Wrist Center. Book your appointment now!

What Causes Raynaud's Syndrome & Disease?

Raynaud's phenomenon is often linked to diseases that compromise the vascular system or connective tissues in the hands, including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, and arterial disease. Cold temperatures drastically affect the arteries in the patient's fingers affected by Raynaud's and limit blood supply. As the condition progresses, the arteries become thicker, and blood flow constricts.

Artery diseases may cause Secondary Raynaud's from the buildup of plaques in blood vessels in hands and feet. Atherosclerosis disorder, Buerger's disease, and primary pulmonary hypertension may lead to Raynaud's complications. Additionally, carpal tunnel syndrome may cause secondary Raynaud's due to increased pressure on hand nerves, producing numbness and pain.

Activities that require excessive movement, vibration, or trauma to the hands may lead to Raynaud's, such as playing the piano or operating a jackhammer. Complications from wrist fractures, hand surgeries, or frostbite also may restrict blood circulation in the hands.

Cigarette smoking constricts blood vessels, and certain medications may lead to high blood pressure and Raynaud's development, including beta-blockers, ergotamine, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder medications, and chemotherapy agents.

Other risk factors for Raynaud's include:

  • Age: Raynaud's often begins around 15 and 30.

  • Climate: People living in colder climates are more susceptible to Raynaud's.

  • Family History: People with first-degree relatives with Raynaud's, including parents or siblings, have an increased risk of developing the condition.

Symptoms of Raynaud's Syndrome & Disease

Symptoms of Raynauds' Syndrome & Disease include:

  • Fingers or toes experiencing numbness in frigid environments, as the person moves into a warmer temperature, fingers or toes will turn red and swell up.

  • Sores on finger pads.

  • Gangrene in extreme cases due to severe tissue death in fingers and toes.

Your doctor will be able to give you a more thorough run-down of your condition.

How is Raynaud's Syndrome & Disease Diagnosed?

The best way to diagnose primary or secondary Raynaud's is with a nailfold capillaroscopy. A doctor will look under the base of the fingernail with a microscope for capillary deformities. If the blood vessels are enlarged or irregular, they may have to investigate further with several blood tests.

The physician will examine a blood sample and check for lupus or rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. They may also order an antinuclear antibodies test. If antibodies are present, this may indicate that the patient has a stimulated immune system common to connective tissue or autoimmune disorders.

A doctor may also need to test the erythrocyte sedimentation rate of the patient. If the red blood cells settle at the bottom of the tube faster than the standard rate, this signals an underlying inflammatory or autoimmune disease that causes Raynaud's.

Treatment for Raynaud's Syndrome & Disease

The best treatment for primary and secondary Raynaud's aim is to limit the number of attacks. Regular exercise, controlling stress, and wearing layered gloves and socks help reduce symptoms. For more severe cases, a doctor may prescribe medication to promote blood circulation and widen blood vessels.

If your condition does not approve, attacks continue, and you are at risk of losing parts of your fingers or toes, your doctor may recommend surgical measures. A surgeon may operate on the sympathetic nerves in your hands and feet to improve blood vessels' circulation. A doctor may also recommend injections to block sympathetic nerves in affected hands or feet.

There are also some simple exercises you can do at home to help open blood vessels. Soak hands in warm water at the sign of an attack, keep hands and feet layered in cold weather, and ask your physician about medication to avoid stress and triggers.

Learn more about common hand and wrist conditions at Resurgens Orthopaedics.

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