Raynaud’s is a rare disorder that affects blood flow in the arteries. People who have Raynaud’s may have normal blood flow some of the time, but occasional episodes where the blood vessels narrow and restrict flow. These episodes are known as vasospasms, and they affect the fingers, toes or other parts of the body.
When the cause of Raynaud’s isn’t known, it is often referred to as primary Raynaud’s or Raynaud’s disease. Raynaud’s can also sometimes be caused by an underlying disorder. In these cases, it may be called secondary Raynaud’s or Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease
The triggers for the vasospasms of Raynaud’s may be related to stressful events or exposure to cold weather. When they occur, blood flow is restricted in the affected areas, usually the fingers or toes. This causes them to lose sensation or feel cold or painful. They may also go through a color progression from pale to white to blue. Then, once blood flow is restored, they may turn red and be painful as blood flows back. In severe instances, this restricted blood flow can lead to complications in the fingers or toes, like sores or tissue death.
When Raynaud’s disease is mild, taking precautions in daily life is usually the best way to avoid vasospasms. Learning to manage stress and protecting the hands and feet from the cold are two of the best ways to prevent the episodes. For more severe cases, medications like alpha-blockers, calcium channel blockers, skin creams or ACE inhibitors are prescribed to improve blood flow and reduce the incidence of vasospasms. Surgery or injections that block the actions of the nerves in the hands or feet may also be considered. These treatments are typically reserved for severe cases of Raynaud’s disease.
SOURCE: U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute