Do You Know How to Recognise Symptoms of Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

May 24, 2008

Are you among the few who are affected by Raynaud’s and yet do not know that you are affected?


Raynaud’s is known as Raynaud’s disease, Raynaud’s phenomenon , or Raynaud’s syndrome though there are minor variations in meaning. Many people are not aware that they are affected by Raynaud’s because its initial symptoms are similar to that of Arthritis.

Then, what exactly is Raynaud’s?

Raynaud’s Phenomenon is a disorder that affects the blood vessels in the nose, ears, toes and fingers. It is Vasospastic, i.e., it leads to the narrowing of blood vessels resulting from the contraction of the muscular wall of the vessels, medically known as Vasoconstriction . The affected areas undergo a triphasic change of colour in a characteristic pattern from white, blue to red. The fingers turn white on diminished blood supply. Then they turn into a blue colour without the necessary oxygen supply. When the hands warm up, the blood flow would return and the fingers would turn red. Unless the fingers go through this tricolor pattern it is not Raynaud’s.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon comprises of both Raynaud’s disease (primary Raynaud’s) and Raynaud’s syndrome (secondary Raynaud’s. This condition can occur alone or as a part of another disease such as rheumatoid arthritis. When the condition occurs alone it is referred to as ‘Raynaud’s disease’ or primary Raynaud’s phenomenon. When Raynaud’s is accompanied by other diseases it is called secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon . Though, this medical condition is idiopathic or has no known causes, it is found that it is mostly triggered by cold or emotional stress. Smoking can also aggravate the condition.

This is seen commonly in people living under cold climatic conditions. Studies show that around 5 to 10% of the population in the USA is affected by Raynaud’s out of which a good majority is women. People living in hot climate may have frequent attacks during colder weather. Attacks may vary from digits to digits (fingers) and may last from less than a minute to several hours.

The Classification

The Primary Raynaud’s Phenomenon

It is the milder and most common version found among people. Women from the age range of 15 to 40 are found to have Primary Raynaud ’s Phenomenon than others. A person who has primary Raynaud’s phenomenon has no underlying illness or associated medical problems. Primary version can change into the secondary version in time.

Secondary Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Secondary Raynaud’s Phenomenon suggests that it is secondary to something else i.e., the patient may have an underlying disease or condition that causes Secondary Raynaud’s Phenomenon. This may reduce the blood flow to the digits by causing blood vessel walls to thicken and constrict too easily. This is a serious and complex disorder than the first one and is caused by connective tissue diseases.

Secondary Raynaud’s Phenomenon may affect people working in conditions like that of a plastic industry or those who are exposed to vinyl chloride. It may also concern people who operate vibrating tools, play instruments like the piano or do a lot of typing and thus cause stress to the fingers.

The Symptoms

The symptoms of Raynaud’s depend on the frequency, the period and the severity of the blood vessel spasms.

  • Pain and paleness
  • The changes in the colour of the affected skin when there is cold or stress. The affected area would change into a white hue first and then to a blue. It will be cold without any sensation. Finally it would swell or throb turning into a Red.
  • A numbness or stinging sensation upon warming or on relief of stress

  Medical Conditions

Raynaud’s Phenomenon in extreme cases may cause conditions which are difficult to treat:

  • Painful ulcers or sores on fingers or toes
  • Gangrene or tissue death
  • Heartburn and difficulty in swallowing can occur when the tissues of the esophagus are weakened due to connective tissue diseases.

  The story behind the name Raynaud’s

The name of the disease takes after Auguste-Maurice Raynaud , a French medical student of the 1860’s who wrote a thesis named “ Local asphyxia and symmetrical gangrene of the extremities” on Raynaud’s Phenomenon as a part of his graduation programme. The thesis was about the colour changes Raynaud’s saw in the hands of women waiting for the streetcar on cold winter days. Today, the disorder is called Raynaud’s Phenomenon in memory of the French Physician, Raynaud’s.

If you think you have Raynaud’s and not rheumatism or arthritis as you have been supposing, you should consult an experienced rheumatologist without any delay.

Additional Reading:

Herbs and Spices for Raynaud Sufferers

Raynaud's Phenomenon - An Overview

Fast Facts About Raynaud's Phenomenon

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