Raynaud's disease is a disorder in which the vessels that supply blood to the fingers and toes (the digits) contract, causing the fingers and toes to turn white, feel numb, tingle, or burn.
In this condition, the arteries that supply blood to the fingers and toes respond to cold or other stimuli by going into spasm (contracting), reducing the supply of blood to the digits and turning them white. When there is no other underlying cause for this contracting, the condition is called Raynaud's disease. It can appear in people of any age, but it occurs most often between the ages of 20 and 40 and affects females more than males.
Collagen is a protein that makes up approximately 30 percent of all protein in the human body. It shapes the structure of connective tissues, including blood vessels. An immune system * that does not function normally can affect these structures. The resulting problems are known collectively as collagen vascular diseases. Raynaud's phenomenon is a collagen vascular disease. It may occur alone (without any other problems) or may predate (occur before) features of other collagen diseases by many years.
Scleroderma is a form of connective tissue disease. It commonly causes Raynaud's because scleroderma reduces blood flow to the extremities. Lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease * that can affect blood vessels. For this reason, individuals with lupus often develop Raynaud's phenomenon.
People in certain occupations are at higher risk for Raynaud's phenomenon. Anyone whose work involves the constant and repetitive use of the fingers or who uses tools that vibrate, such as a jackhammer or chainsaw, are at increased risk. People with medical conditions that affect small arteries or who have certain neurological conditions or connective tissue diseases, such as lupus or scleroderma, are at risk as well. Smoking may trigger or worsen spasms in blood vessels.
In Raynaud's disease, a person's fingers and toes first turn white or blue when they become cold because the necessary amount of blood is not reaching them. They turn red when blood is flowing normally again.
When people get an attack of Raynaud's disease, their fingers and toes may feel numb or tingle and burn. In severe (but rare) cases the restriction of the arteries causes the fingers to thicken, which can lead to ulcerations (loss of tissue) at the fingertips as well as changes in the fingernails. In the worst case, gangrene (tissue death) can occur.
Although Raynaud's disease may not be completely preventable in people who are susceptible to the disorder, there are some preventive measures a person can take. People who experience Raynaud's should:
See also Arteriosclerosis/Atherosclerosis • Arthritis • Collagen Vascular Diseases: Overview • Lupus • Peripheral Vascular Disease • Scleroderma
Brown, Jill S. “Are Your Hands Almost Always Cold? You Might Have Raynaud's Syndrome.” The Huffington Post. August 11, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jill-s-brown/are-your-hands-almostalw_b_7929332.html (accessed August 12, 2015).
Yu, Winnie. “When Cold Fingers Mean Raynaud's, or Worse.” The New York Times. May 29, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/ref/health/healthguide/esn-Raynauds-ess.html (accessed November 15, 2015).
MedlinePlus. “Raynaud's Disease.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/raynaudsdisease.html (accessed November 15, 2015).
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “What Is Raynaud's?” National Institutes of Health. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/healthtopics/topics/raynaud (accessed August 12, 2015).
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. “Raynaud's Phenomenon.” National Institutes of Health. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Raynauds_Phenomenon/ (accessed August 12, 2015).
American College of Rheumatology. 2200 Lake Blvd. NE, Atlanta, GA 30319. Telephone: 404-633-3777. Website: http://www.rheumatology.org (accessed August 12, 2015).
Arthritis Foundation. 1330 W. Peachtree St., Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30309. Telephone: 404-872-7100. Website: http://www.arthritis.org (accessed November 15, 2015).
Lupus Foundation of America. 2000 L St., N.W., Suite 410, Washington, DC 20036. Telephone: 202-349-1155. Website: http://www.lupus.org (accessed November 15, 2015).
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. PO Box 30105, Bethesda, MD 20824. Telephone: 301-592-8573. Website: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov (accessed August 12, 2015).
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 1 AMS Circle, Bethesda, MD 20892-3675. Toll-free: 877-226-4267. Website: http://www.niams.nih.gov (accessed March 12, 2016).
Raynaud's Association. 11 Topstone Rd., Redding, CT 06896. Toll-free: 800-280-8055. Website: http://www.raynauds.org (accessed March 12, 2016).
Scleroderma Foundation. 300 Rosewood Dr., Suite 105, Danvers, MA 01923. Telephone: 978-463-5843. Website: http://www.scleroderma.org (accessed March 12, 2016).
* connective tissue helps hold the body together, and is found in skin, joints, and bones.
* immune system (im-YOON SIStem) is the system of the body composed of specialized cells and the substances they produce that help protect the body against disease-causing germs.
* autoimmune disease (awtoh-ih-MYOON) is a disease in which the body's immune system attacks some of the body's own normal tissues and cells.