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Raynaud syndrome, also referred to as Raynaud’s, is a medical term which describes the fingers paleness due to reduced blood flow. It can affect toes, lips or nose as well, but such incidents are in greater minority. This unpleasant sensation is caused by an arterial spasms and may be accompanied by pain and numbness. When the syndrome relieves and the blood flow gradually become regular, the previously affected area will turn red and start to burn. Raynaud syndrome can last from several minutes up to few hours and may be perceived as a threat, however most of the incidents are not dangerous for general health condition. According to statistics given by NHLBI, Raynaud syndrome is more frequently diagnosed in cold climates.
Raynaud syndrome classification and possible causes
Raynaud syndrome can be divided into 2 different categories, based on its origin:
- Primary type – occurs without any underlying disorder, which means that symptoms are idiopathic. It usually affects females, especially between the age of 15-25, and might be triggered by genetic background. Nevertheless, the exact mechanism and particular genes responsible for the disorder activation are still unknown. The most popular cause of the primary type is emotional stress and vulnerability to coldness. It is worth to remember, that smoking and drinking caffeine can also intensify the attacks.
- Secondary type – appears as a result of an underlying disorder. There is a variety of possible causes, and the most common ones include:
- Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma, polymyositis, dermatomyositis or systemic lupus erythematosus.
- Administration of certain drugs, for instance oral contraceptives, beta blockers, ergotamine, bromocriptine and even psychostimulants.
- Physical damage to the hands, due to e.g. excessive use of string trimmer, jackhammer or drill.
- Lyme boreliosis
Symptoms associated with Raynaud syndrome
Raynaud syndrome is usually present without any additional features. However, there are certain symptoms and signs associated with this condition that occur in some of the incidents. In case of secondary type, they are strictly connected with an underlying disorder. But on the other hand, primary type can be characterized by pain, swelling, tingling and numbness felt in the affected area. Burning may also appear especially after the attack, when the blood flow will return. In some cases of both types, victims of Raynaud syndrome are more vulnerable to migraines and angina.
The most difficult, and at the same time crucial, part of diagnosis is to distinguishing primary type from secondary type. This specific syndrome may indicate some serious disorders, thus it cannot be neglected. At the beginning, a specialist may want to investigate the patient’s medical history, work environment and sensitivity to coldness. Examinations are needed only in order to exclude other possible causes. They can include, for instance, Doppler ultrasonography, thyroid function tests, complete blood count or digital artery pressure measurement.
Regular treatment for primary type include avoiding cold, emotional stress, smoking tobacco and vibrations or repetitive motions at working place. However, in case of secondary type, the course is frequently more complicated. Apart from taking care of the underlying disorder, it may include administration of drugs, such as vasodilators, sympatholytics or losartan, as well as surgery for severe incidents.