Raynaud's phenomenon or, simply, Raynaud's, is a disorder characterized by decreased blood flow to the fingers, and less frequently to the ears, toes, nipples, knees, or nose. Vascular spasms usually occur as attacks in response to cold exposure, stress, or emotional upset.
Raynaud's can occur alone (primary form) or may occur with other diseases (secondary form). The diseases most frequently associated with Raynaud's are autoimmune or connective tissue diseases, among others, such as:
The exact cause of Raynaud's is unknown. One theory links blood disorders characterized by increased platelets or red blood cells that may increase the blood thickness. Another theory involves the special receptors in the blood that control the constriction of the blood vessels that are shown to be more sensitive in individuals with Raynaud's.
A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity, such as smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. Different diseases have different risk factors.
Although these factors can increase a person's risk, they do not necessarily cause the disease. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop a disease, while others develop the disease and have no known risk factors.
But, knowing your risk factors to any disease can help to guide you into the appropriate actions, including changing behaviors and being clinically monitored for the disease.
There are certain diseases or lifestyle choices that can increase a person's risk for developing Raynaud's. These risk factors include:
The following are the most common symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
There are no specific laboratory tests that can confirm a diagnosis of Raynaud's phenomenon. Instead, diagnosis is usually based on reported symptoms. Your doctor may perform a cold challenge test to bring out color changes in the hands or a nailfold capillaroscopy where your fingernail is examined under a microscope.
Tests to determine which form—primary or secondary—of Raynaud's phenomenon a patient may have include a medical exam, blood tests, and a complete medical history.
Specific treatment for Raynaud's phenomenon will be determined by your doctor based on:
Although there is no cure for Raynaud's phenomenon, the disorder can often be successfully managed with proper treatment. Treatment may include:
Individuals who first experience Raynaud's phenomenon after ages 35 to 40 may be tested for an underlying disease. The primary form of Raynaud's is the most common type, and usually begins between ages 15 and 25. It's less severe, and few people with this form develop another related condition.
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