What Is Raynauds Disease?
Raynauds disease is a condition that affects the blood supply to the fingers, toes and occasionally the ears and nose. During a Raynauds attack, or episode, the blood vessels constrict (narrow) and the blood supply to these areas is reduced. This results in several skin color changes which are often accompanied by a throbbing or burning sensation, cold, and numbness. The exact cause of Raynauds disease remains unknown. However, current research is coming closer to determining a probable cause.
What Are The Symptoms Of Raynauds Disease?
During a typical Raynauds attack the affected area may first become white (pallor) as the blood supply is reduced, then blue (cyanosis) as the oxygen supply to the area is depleted, followed by bright red (rubor) as the blood returns to the area (reactive hyperemia). Raynauds disease, by definition, involves three color changes. However, they do not always occur in the same order for all people all of the time nor do all three changes always occur in a given attack.
What Causes A Raynauds Attack?
Raynauds episodes can be triggered by cold, either by touching cold objects or by being in a cold environment. Emotions such as stress and anxiety may also play a role. The severity of attacks will vary from episode to episode, as well as from patient to patient. Attacks typically last a few minutes.
Who Gets Raynauds Disease?
Raynauds disease occurs more frequently in women than in men. Although it can occur at any age it usually begins between the ages of 15 and 40. It is estimated that 4 - 5% of the United States population is affected.
How Is Raynauds Categorized?
Raynauds is divided into two categories.
How Is Raynauds Disease Diagnosed?
Primary Raynauds disease is diagnosed following the Allen Brown criteria:
Additional testing which a physician might do to help with the diagnosis:
What Is The Treatment For Raynauds Disease?
There is no known cure for this condition, therefore, effective treatments are essential. Most cases of primary Raynauds can be controlled with proper medical care.
What you can do:
Many people are able to find relief by simply adjusting their lifestyle. For example:
What a doctor might do:
For more severe cases that require medication, your doctor might prescribe drugs which keep your blood vessels from narrowing and help them dilate (expand), such as nifedipine, diltiazem, or nitroglycerin. Some of these medications may have side effects which you should discuss with your physician before taking.
Biofeedback has been demonstrated to be safe and effective for some individuals. This is a technique designed to help a person gain control over involuntary body functions, such as skin temperature, heart rate, or blood pressure. Biofeedback training is necessary and several methods are available.
In rare instances, a sympathectomy may be performed. This operation cuts the nerves that may also be affecting the blood vessels to the fingers. This procedure is usually not necessary and may only work for a short period of time.