Raynaud's phenomenonRaynaud's is a disease of circulatory system involving the arteries of fingers and toes. The blood vessels of the fingers and toes undergo sudden vasospasm restricting the blood supply. Though usually the symptoms involve fingers and toes, in some rare cases ear lobes, nose, lips and nipples may also be involved. This disease was discovered by a French doctor A. G. Maurice Raynaud (1834–1881).
What causes Raynaud's phenomenonIn many situations, causes of Raynaud's phenomenon are not known (idiopathic) and this type of attack is called primary Raynaud's phenomenon or disease. The symptoms arise due to constriction of peripheral arteries by hyperactivity of sympathetic nervous system. It may last from a few minutes to several hours.
In some cases the underlying disease condition can cause these symptoms to appear. Such type of disorder is called secondary Raynaud's or Raynaud's syndrome.
Though the primary Raynaud's phenomenon can resolve by taking some simple measures, the secondary Raynaud's can progress to gangrene and necrosis.
Raynaud's phenomenon symptomsIn persons predisposed for Raynaud's phenomenon, these symptoms occur typically in a sequence. On exposure to cold temperatures or emotional stress, blood circulation to the extremities get greatly reduced. Initially finger and toes turn pale in color due to restricted blood supply. With the dwindling blood supply oxygen levels in the affected place go down, imparting a bluish discoloration (cyanosis).
The affected area feels cold and numb with reduced sense of touch. When the episode subsides or remedial measures are taken, the blood supply gets restored. With the release of constriction, the blood rushes to the affected area, making it turn red in color.
(Image attribution: Tcal at en.wikipedia)
Secondary Raynaud's syndrome symptomsThough in the secondary form the vasospasm symptoms are seen they are brought about by underlying diseases. During subclinical stage, many diseases induce the symptoms of the secondary disorder.
Many connective tissue diseases, autoimmune diseases, eating disorders, obstructive diseases in the circulative system, cancerous diseases, certain vaccines, drugs, chemicals, hormones, trauma, smoking, and continuous vibration (drilling) can bring about the secondary Raynaud's disease symptoms.
Apart from efforts to alleviate the symptoms of vasospasm, focus must be on the causative disease and its treatment for permanent relief from vasoconstriction. This secondary disease may affect any age group. Secondary Raynaud's can also be limited to one limb, indicating local disorders and diseases.
A complete clinical examination and blood tests of the affected person can pin point the causative disorder behind this phenomenon. If the symptoms left untreated blackening, ulceration, gangrene and necrosis of the digits may follow.
Differentiating symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon and acrocyanosisAcrocyanosis is a persistent cyanosis of the extremities, more common in hands. Though acrocyanosis symptoms may look like Raynaud's phenomenon cyanosis, acrocyanosis is persistent whereas Raynaud's phenomenon is episodic, resolving on remedial measures.
Remedial measures for primary and secondary Raynaud's phenomenon or disease on onset of symptoms include protection from cold, emotional stability, medication for vasodilation and also diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, if any.
Raynaud's phenomenon treatment
Bluish skin discoloration
Skin discoloration pictures