Raynaud’s disease, or Raynaud’s phenomenon, causes blood vessels in your extremities to become narrow. This disease restricts the blood flow to your fingers and toes. These attacks occur when from exposure to emotional stress or cold weather. This misunderstood condition can be controlled with lifestyle changes. However, it can become severe, causing skin sores that lead to gangrene. Here are five signs of Raynaud’s disease and how to manage it.
Two types of Raynaud’s phenomenon
There are two types of this Raynaud’s disease-primary and secondary.
Primary: This is the most common form of this condition. It’s unknown what causes primary Raynaud’s disease, but it’s not because of a medical condition. For example, you may first notice discoloration of your fingers or toes when you’re out cold.
Secondary: This is a more severe form of this disease due to an underlying illness or other factors. Raynaud’s occurs in people with these conditions:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Buerger disease
- Thyroid disorders
- Crest syndrome
- Blood disorders
- Pulmonary hypertension
These diseases damage your blood vessels and arteries, putting you at risk for Raynaud’s disease.
Who is most likely to get Raynaud’s disease?
Anyone can get this disease, but some groups are more likely to get it. Those people most at risk include the following:
- Women are nine times more apt to get this disease than men
- It often shows up in teens, usually around fifteen
- Family history of Raynaud’s disease makes you more likely to get it
- People who work with vibrating machines like jackhammers, gasoline chain saws, power hand tools, or pneumatic hammers
- Individuals taking certain medications like beta blockers
- People exposed to chemicals
- Autoimmune diseases
- Trauma or injury
- Cigarette smokers
5 Signs of Raynaud’s Disease and How to Manage It
Watch for these red flags that can reveal this syndrome.
1. Pale white extremities that turn bluish-purple
The first indication that you have this condition is that your hands or toes turn a pale white when exposed to cold or stress. You’ll notice how the tips of your fingers are extremely pale, but there’s a line below where your skin is a typical color. People may mention it to you because it’s very noticeable. The skin of the affected parts of your body turns white because the blood flow is restricted.
2. Bluish-purple coloration
Once your extremities start warming up, they’ll turn blueish purple. This symptom happens because as the constricted blood vessels relax, the blood starts flowing again. Even though the blood is flowing in, there’s not enough oxygen, so your fingertips and toes turn blue.
Some people notice other parts of their body have this discoloration when exposed to the cold. Regions of your body that can be affected by Raynaud’s disease include:
3. Red, swollen extremities
As these areas finally warm up and your circulation improves, your extremities will turn red. They may swell, turn bright red, throb, or burn.
4. Throbbing or burning pain
As the blood flows back into your extremities, your fingers and toes go from white to blue to bright red. It’s an excruciating sensation. Many people describe it as pins and needles feeling. It can be challenging to move your fingers or toes when this happens. Raynaud’s disease is a potentially debilitating condition. These attacks may last for minutes to hours.
5. Skin ulcers
In severe cases of Raynaud’s disease, the lack of blood flow may cause tissue sores, skin infections, or skin ulcers. Left untreated, these are hard to treat and can develop into gangrene. Fornaturely, skin ulcers occur only in extremely severe cases of Raynaud’s disease.
What causes Raynaud’s disease?
Scientists aren’t sure what causes this disease. It’s more common in young people aged fifteen to early twenties. Women get it more often than men. It’s also a common side effect of certain vascular diseases for people who work with vibrating machinery or take certain medications. Stress and emotional factors also trigger episodes of Raynaud’s. First, being out in the cold causes your extremities to turn white and blue. Your blood vessels constrict. As the blood flows, because the blood lacks oxygen, the affected areas turn bluish-purple. The last part of an episode happens as blood flows free, causing sudden burning and throbbing pain in the regions.
Why is it a misunderstood disease?
If you find that holding a cold drink or grabbing meat from the freezer department at the grocery stores turns your fingers white and then blue, you may have Raynaud’s disease. Some people think you’re just super sensitive to the cold, but according to the Raynaud’s Association, approximately 15 to 30 million people suffer from this phenomenon. It’s a painful disease that may interrupt your life, job, or home life.
Of course, winter is usually the year Raynaud’s disease flares up, but air conditioning can also trigger it. If your fingers or toes get painful and your experience discoloration, you may have Raynaud’s disease.
How is Raynaud’s disease diagnosed?
Determining if you have primary or secondary Raynaud’s disease is essential. Some tests can decide which one you have.