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  • V. Chang

The Case of Raynaud's Disease

Hope everyone had a great summer holiday and spent wonderful time in the heat and sun. Now we are heading into fall, where temperatures start to drop and people begin to bundle up.

Some of us, especially females, experience very cold hands and feet when they are out in the cold or even indoors. Even though we wear more layers than others, our extremities remain abnormally cold. Sound familiar?

This is known as Raynaud's Disease.

It occurs when small blood vessels, called arterioles, within the fingers, toes, ears and nose constrict and disrupt blood circulation, which cause the extremities to go white or blue and lose feeling. Raynaud's is categorized into two types: primary and secondary. If you have symptoms of Raynaud's due to other diseases or conditions, it is secondary Raynaud's, also known as Raynaud's phenomenon. If symptoms are present without influence of other disease, it's primary, and referred as Raynaud's disease.

About 75% of all sufferers of primary Raynaud's tend to be female between ages 15 to 40.

What causes it? This condition is caused by a spasm in the sympathetic nervous system, one that is stimulated with external stress. The system is stimulated when a stress is applied to cause a rush of adrenaline; this causes the veins to constrict, to reserve blood for the essential organs and muscles, which turns the skin white as blood is pushed inwards. This process is stimulated by extreme cold; as more blood is supplied to the limbs, the vessels will constrict to keep the blood in the vital body. In Raynaud's, they are rapidly and tightly constricted, and can remain constricted for prolonged periods of time.

Certain diseases and condition will increase risk of Raynaud's:

- Rheumatoid arthritis - chronic autoimmune disease that cause debilitating pain and joint damage

- Lupus - chronic autoimmune inflammation of skin and internal organs; this is more common among women than men

- High blood pressure

- Under active thyroid issues

- Cigarette Smoking

- Migraines

- Nerve disorders

- Vibration exposure

- Frostbite

- Typing on keyboard or playing piano too often in a day

Signs and Symptoms

Most obvious symptoms are paleness of the skin in the extremities. If it continues for more than a few minutes, the skin may turn blue/purple.

When the blood vessels relax, the affected areas will be throbbing, painful and red due to the rush of blood into the extremities.

Treatment? Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease. The best suggestion we can offer is to keep warm and avoid going outside in extreme cold temperatures, as cold is the primary trigger for the symptoms. Other ways to help the condition will be to apply a topical cream or wear thermal socks and gloves that promotes heat and circulation to the extremities.

Stay warm and safe this fall! Call us today for an appointment if you have any questions or concerns!

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