Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition that affects blood vessels in the fingers, toes, ears, nose, and lips. During a Raynaud's attack the blood vessels constrict, which decreases blood flow. Typically, attacks last around fifteen minutes, but may last only one minute or up to several hours. When a Raynaud's attack occurs, there can be pain, numbness, tingling, swelling, throbbing, and discoloration of the affected digit or lobe. It is possible for sores to develop on the affected body part. Raynaud's attacks are often brought on by exposure to cold or periods of excessive stress.
Primary Raynaud's phenomenon is considered the more mild form of the condition. No other disease is associated with primary Raynaud's phenomenon. Secondary Raynaud's phenomenon is less common, yet more severe. Secondary Raynaud's phenomenon is associated with other connective-tissue diseases.
Diagnosing and Treating Raynaud's Phenomenon
Beyond a physical examination (which looks for blueness or pallor of the skin and redness with rewarming, as well as pitting scars or ulcers of the skin) and blood tests (sedrate and antinuclear antibody test) to rule out other rheumatic diseases, there are some specific diagnostic tests for Raynaud's phenomenon: nailfold capillaroscopy and a cold stimulation test.
Treatment of Raynaud's phenomenon is focused on preventing future attacks and permanent tissue damage. It is very important to warm the affected areas, keep yourself warm, manage your stress, stop smoking, relax, and exercise.
Medications such as calcium channel blockers, vasodilators, and smooth muscle relaxers are helpful. Surgery may be used in extreme cases. Usually, people adjust to living with Raynaud's phenomenon and are conscious of what can aggravate the condition.
Prevalence of Raynaud's Phenomenon
Approximately 85 to 95 percent of people with scleroderma or a mixed connective-tissue disease (MCTD) also have Raynaud's phenomenon. It is estimated that a third of lupus patients also have symptoms associated with Raynaud's phenomenon.
About 75 percent of all primary Raynaud's cases occur in women ages fifteen to forty. According to NIAMS, it has been estimated that Raynaud's phenomenon affects 5 to 10 percent of the general population in the United States, though estimates vary.
It is imperative for a person who suffers from Raynaud's phenomenon to keep warm. Wear gloves, even inside the house, if it helps. Rule number one is to protect yourself from the cold in any way you can.