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Raynaud’s Syndrome – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Pictures

Updated on December 19, 2013

Raynaud’s syndrome is a disorder that leads to increased numbness or coolness in certain regions of the body like the toes, fingers and the tips of the ears and the nose, as a response to increased stress or cold weather. The smaller arteries which carry blood to the skin tend to become narrow in people with Raynaud’s syndrome, which in turn restricts the circulation of blood to the affected regions.

People living in colder regions and women are at an increased risk to developing the condition as compared to other individuals. Treatment of the condition is as per the severity level and the presence of any existing medical conditions. Raynaud’s syndrome does not cause extreme health problems but can be quite bothersome.

Symptoms of Raynaud’s Syndrome

Raynaud’s syndrome cannot be compared to frostbite, neither is it just a normal condition of having cold hands and feet. The symptoms of the condition are generally dependent on the harshness, duration and incidence of the blood vessel spasms that accompany the condition. Signs include the following:

  • Increased coldness of the extremities such as the fingers and the toes
  • Relief of stress or warming may induce stinging, numb sensations or prickly pain
  • The skin color may undergo sequential change as a response to stress and cold levels
  • When a person affected by Raynaud’s syndrome gets an attack, then the skin initially turns white. After that, the affected parts may turn blue, become numb and cold and the sense of touch may be blunted. With improvement in blood circulation, the area may turn red accompanied by tingling, throbbing and swelling.
  • The attacks may not always affect the same digits all the time. A single attack generally tends to affect one or two toes or fingers. Besides the digits, Raynaud’s syndrome may also affect other body areas such as the tips of the nose and the ears and even the nipples. An attack can last for many hours or just a few minutes.
  • Individuals who have other underlying medical conditions in addition to Raynaud’s syndrome, will also experience the symptoms of that particular condition during an attack

Causes of Raynaud’s Syndrome

  • The exact cause of Raynaud’s syndrome is not known. However, it is known that the symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome are caused due to exposure to freezing temperatures or stress. It is also believed that the condition may also be somewhat inherited.
  • When the body comes into contact with cold weather, then the extremities are the first ones to lose heat. As a reaction to cold temperatures and to conserve the core temperature of the body, the body shuts down the flow of blood to the extremities. This is done by narrowing of the smaller arteries that carry blood to the skin. This reaction of the body is amplified in individuals with Raynaud’s syndrome.
  • Stress also causes a similar reaction by the body, and this reaction is exaggerated in people with Raynaud’s syndrome.

Types of Raynaud’s Syndrome and their Causes

There are two main types of Raynaud’s syndrome, i.e. Primary Raynaud’s syndrome and Secondary Raynaud’s syndrome.

  • Primary Raynaud’s syndrome does not have a pre-existing medical condition that can cause a vasospasm of the blood vessels. Vasospasm causes increased narrowing of the blood vessels leading to restricted blood supply. It is more common as compared to secondary Raynaud’s syndrome. Being a woman, residing in colder regions, being in the age group of 15 to 30 years and a family history of the condition increases the risk to developing this type of Raynaud’s syndrome
  • Secondary Raynaud’s syndrome involves the presence of an existing medical condition that may provoke the reaction. It is more serious as compared to the primary type and generally tends to affect individuals in their 40s and above.
    • It may be caused due to:
    • Presence of the autoimmune disorder lupus which tends to affects various body parts such as the skin, tissues, joints and the blood vessels
    • Presence of scleroderma that causes scarring and thickening of the skin
    • Presence of the orthopedic condition, rheumatoid arthritis
    • Presence of different types of arterial diseases such as primary pulmonary hypertension, atherosclerosis, etc
    • Presence of carpal tunnel syndrome that causes narrowing of the wrist passageway, which inflicts increased pressure on a vital nerve going into the hand
    • Narrowing of the blood vessels due to smoking also increases the risk to developing Raynaud’s syndrome
    • Increased number of injuries on the extremities as well as exposure to certain chemicals can increase the risk to Raynaud’s syndrome

Treatment of Raynaud’s Syndrome

  • Mild symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome can be treated via self care methods and wearing adequate amount of clothing to protect oneself from colder temperatures.
  • Severe symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome may be treated with medications like vasodilators and alpha blockers, which dilate the blood vessels and improve circulation
  • Women with Raynaud’s syndrome should avoid or stop the intake of birth control pills as they can aggravate the symptoms of the condition
  • Severe cases of Raynaud’s syndrome may be treated via surgeries as per the diagnosis of the doctor.

Raynaud's Syndrome Pictures

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