Raynaud’s disease or Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition that limits blood flow and causes pain to the fingers, toes, nose, nipples, and knees. This happens when the blood vessels in the affected areas constrict in episodes known as vasospasms. The spasms of the blood vessels can happen in response to stress, cold, or emotional upset.
Raynaud’s phenomenon can occur on its own – primary form, or accompany other medical conditions – secondary form.
Medical conditions that are linked to Raynaud’s phenomenon are connective tissue or autoimmune diseases such as:
- Buerger disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjogren syndrome
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Thyroid disorders
- Blood disorders
- Occlusive vascular disease
The primary form of Raynaud’s disease is the most common type and it is less severe than the secondary form.
Causes of Raynaud’s Disease
The exact cause of Raynaud’s disease is unclear, but the secondary form of Raynaud’s is often related to lifestyle habits such as smoking and underlying medical conditions that can affect the connective tissues or blood vessels such as the above-mentioned diseases.
Factors that can increase the risk of developing Raynaud’s include:
- Autoimmune or connective tissue disease
- Cigarette smoking
- Trauma or injury
- Exposure to chemicals
- Use of medications that narrow the arteries such as amphetamines and beta-blockers
- Repetitive actions such as using a vibrating tool or typing
Symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease
Symptoms of Raynaud’s vary from person to person and they include:
- Discoloration of the affected areas to pale or white then blue in response to cold or emotional stress then back to the normal color when warm
- Cold toes or fingers
- Loss of sensation in the affected areas
- Swollen, painful, and/or numb hands when warmed
The affected areas usually return to normal after the resumption of normal blood flow in the area which can take about 15 minutes.
Diagnosis of Raynaud’s Disease
Diagnosis of Raynaud’s involves a physician performing a physical exam and taking your medical history. A blood test will also be done to diagnose Raynaud’s disease.
You will be asked about your symptoms and you may be given a cold challenge test. It involves exposing your hands to cold to see if the color changes.
A capillaroscopy may also be performed to check if you have primary or secondary Raynaud’s. It involves microscopically examining the nail fold near the fingernails. The capillaries of individuals with primary Raynaud’s appear normal when there is no vasospasm appearing. In contrast to this, those with secondary Raynaud’s have deformed or enlarged blood vessels near their nail folds.
Treatment of Raynaud’s Disease
There is no cure for Raynaud’s disease, but treatment focuses on preventing tissue damage, reducing the number of attacks, and treating the underlying condition.
- Lifestyle changes: Staying warm and exercising and avoiding substances that are likely to cause the blood vessels to constrict such as nicotine and caffeine products.
- Medications: Medication may be prescribed for individuals who have long-lasting, frequent, or intense vasospasms to help the blood vessels in relaxing and widening.
- Injections: Injections are only recommended for severe Raynaud’s. Botox or local anesthetics can be injected to block the sympathetic nerves.
- Surgery: Cutting the nerves in the area affected limits of the affected area their exaggerated response. These nerves are responsible for controlling the opening and narrowing of blood vessels in the skin.
At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service. From initial consultation through to final diagnosis, treatment and beyond. Our multidisciplinary team of expert doctors, nurses, cardiologists and technologists are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you may have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.