Raynaud’s disease is one of those rare diseases that manifest in an unusual way. Imagine your fingers and/or toes, or your nose, nipples or ears turning white and blue, then back to red whenever the weather is cold or whenever you’re stressed out.
It is named after Maurice Raynaud who first described the condition in 1862.
Let’s get into some basics about this unique condition.
What causes it?
Adapted from David Darling
The small blood vessels in the skin of the affected areas are hyper-reactive to cold temperatures as well as stress. When either of these occur, the small blood vessels (arterioles) temporarily undergo spasms, resulting in their narrowing and even downright collapse in some instances. When blood vessels are narrowed, inevitably, blood supply to the affected areas will be reduced. The reduction of blood flow causes the colour changes we talked about earlier. The colour changes from white (ischemia/reduced blood flow to the fingers or toes) to blue (hypoxia/lack of oxygen available to the fingers or toes) to red (reperfusion/blood returns to affected areas after spasm is alleviated).
How does it present?
Adapted from Washington Arthritis Rheumors
During Raynaud attacks, the affected person experiences pain and color changes in the extremities, most often the fingers and toes. Although it’s most commonly seen in fingers and toes, it can also affect the ears, nipples, and the nose. The color change to white then blue, and then back to normal as blood returns to the affected areas. There could also be numbness and tingling sensations in the fingers and toes. It’s quite uncomfortable, to say the least.
Adapted from Primary Care Dermatology Society
Can it be prevented?
Preventing Raynaud’s attacks will majorly involve avoiding the two most significant triggers which are cold temperatures and stress.
Be sure to wrap up properly prior to exposure to cold temperatures, and be sure to do your best to keep stress at bay. If possible wear some sort of gloves or mittens if you need to grab items from your fridge or freezer.
Are there any treatments?
There’s currently no definitive treatment for this condition but the symptoms can be managed conservatively or with the use of certain medications such as Calcium channel blockers and vasodilators. Conservative management would include simple steps like immersing hands and feet in warm water during attacks, staying indoors where it’s warm, bundling up the socks and gloves, and so on.
Adapted from APS Foundation of America
What is the difference between Raynaud’s disease and Raynaud’s syndrome?
The condition is called Raynaud’s disease when its primary or idiopathic, I.e not caused by any other diseases. It’s called Raynaud’s syndrome when it occurs as a consequence of other diseases such as lupus, vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels) or scleroderma.
Featured image: Tips Curing Disease
Dr. Wendy Evans-Uhegbu is a graduate of The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, with experience in Connected Health, Medical Technology, Clinical Research, Medical Education, and Web Design. She is a member of the Medics Abroad team with the role of Chief Communications Officer. She also runs a Medical Communications and Publishing business, and is the author of the newly published children’s book “The Things Around Me”.