About the disease
Raynaud's disease is an inflammation of the extremities, manifested by pain which appears when a person is exposed to cold temperatures. The most common manifestation of this condition is pain in the fingers when temperature drops. This can be explained by the fact that blood vessels become narrow due to the weather changes. In some cases, blood vessels can shut down for the period when a person is exposed to the cold. In such case, skin of the extremities becomes pale or even blue and then red when a person gets to a place where temperature is normal for them.
According to Medical News Today, approximately 5 to 10% of the US citizens are affected by Raynaud's disease, but only 1 out of 10 seeks medical help. Also, it was estimated that this disease is predominantly common in women as 90% of all Raynaud's disease patients are females.
Overall, Raynaud's disease develops when blood vessels start to abnormally react to the cold weather. This condition can be congenital or develop throughout the lifetime. This condition was first described in 1862, although it could have existed long time before. Only people who live in cold climates or who go to places where temperatures are low experience Raynaud's disease. In mild cases, a person may only see that his/her skin changes to white or blue during exposure to the cold. In severe cases, a person may experience contractions of the extremities, swelling and numbness. Most probably, Raynaud's disease develops when a person`s nervous system becomes hyperactive. Some people can have symptoms of the Raynaud's disease upon immersion of hands in the cold water or simply opened freezer. In others, symptoms may appear as a result of stress even if a person is not exposed to the cold at that time.
- Pain in the extremities when exposed to cold weather
- Tingling sensation in the fingers and toes
- Pale or blue color of the skin
- During general examination, a doctor will examine the skin and also its reaction to cold. A doctor may use a cube of ice to determine if skin changes its color when it touches the ice and whether or not the sensation is painful.
- A blood test is used to rule out the possibility of the autoimmune condition and also to check erythrocyte rate.
- A capillaroscopy test is used to examine the capillaries at the base of the fingernails and see the reaction of the blood vessel when exposed to cold. This is the most efficient current diagnostic test for Raynaud's disease.
- Thoracic sympathectomy is a surgery used to strip the sympathetic nerves from the thoracic region. Thus, the blood vessels are not blocked when exposed to the cold.
- Conservative treatment includes injections of special chemicals that block the activity of the sympathetic nerves and thus the blood vessels react normally to the cold.