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Raynaud's Phenomenon

Raynaud's Disease

What is Raynaud disease? — Raynaud disease is a condition that can cause people's fingers and toes to turn white or purple-blue. Raynaud disease does not always cause symptoms, but people can get an "attack" when it is cold out, when they feel stressed, or when they are startled. Raynaud disease is more common in women than men.
Normally, blood vessels in parts of the body become narrow under certain conditions, such as when it is very cold out. When people have Raynaud disease, the blood vessels become much more narrow than usual during these times. This causes symptoms.
Most people with Raynaud disease have normal blood vessels. But some people with Raynaud disease also have another disease that affects their blood vessels.
What are the symptoms of Raynaud disease? — Most often, Raynaud disease affects the fingers. During an attack, people's fingers suddenly become cold and turn white or purple-blue (picture 1). Attacks usually begin in the index, middle, or ring fingers and then spread to the fingers in both hands. The thumb is not usually affected. During an attack, a person's hand can feel numb, clumsy, or like it has "pins and needles."
It does not need to be very cold out for people to have an attack. Attacks can happen when people go from a warm area to a cooler area, such as walking into an air-conditioned building.
Raynaud disease can also affect other parts of the body. The toes, ears, nose, face, knees, and nipples can become white or blue when they are cold.
Once a person warms up or is no longer stressed, the symptoms go away and the skin becomes pink or red. This usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.
People who have Raynaud disease plus another disease affecting their blood vessels can have more severe symptoms. Their attacks can last longer, and they can develop pain or open sores on their fingers and toes.
Is there a test for Raynaud disease? — No. But your doctor or nurse should be able to tell if you have it by talking with you and doing an exam. Your doctor or nurse might also order blood tests.
Is there anything I can do on my own to prevent attacks of Raynaud disease? — Yes. To help prevent attacks, you can:
Try not to let your body get cold too quickly and or change temperatures too quickly. Keep your whole body warm and avoid cold breezes or cold places. You can dress warmly by wearing layers of clothes, hats, and mittens or gloves.
Don't smoke – Smoking can make your symptoms worse.
Avoid medicines that cause blood vessels to become narrow, such as cold medicines or diet pills
Try to relax and reduce the stress in your life
If you have an attack, you can try to end it quickly by warming up your hands. Place your hands in warm water or in a warm place, such as in your armpits.
Should I see a doctor or nurse? — Yes. If you continue to have attacks after trying the things listed above, talk with your doctor or nurse. Your doctor might prescribe a medicine to help reduce your symptoms. Some people take medicine for Raynaud disease only during the cold winter months.
You should also see your doctor or nurse if you have an attack that does not get better. If your symptoms do not go away, your doctor or nurse might send you to the hospital for further treatment.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 15533 Version 9.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
© 2020 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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