Raynauds disease, or as it’s sometimes known, Raynauds phenomenon, is a condition primarily effecting the hands, fingers, and feet. During cold weather or moments of stress, not enough blood reaches the extremities and this will turn the extremities white or blue. As the blood flows back into the affected area a red tingle becomes apparent. The exact cause of the disease remains a mystery, but correct diagnosis can help treat the condition.
Symptoms of RD depend upon the frequency of attacks plus the severity of the disease. A mild case results in only skin discolouration, with the extremities turning white (this is referred to as pallor) or blue (this is termed cyanosis). This is usually the result during cold exposure, particularity during the winter months. It’s common for mild cases to only affect a single digit, or two fingers or toes as a maximum. As the disease progresses over time, the whole hand or foot can become affected.
Cold water as well as cold weather can affect the hands and feet so provoking an attack. The pain is caused by the capillaries (the small arteries creating blood flow to the extremities) shrinking and suffering from spasmodic activity. This reduces the blood flow causing the extremities to discolour. The lack of colour indicates no obvious blood-flow. An apparent loss of sensation may also result from no blood reaching the most sensitive parts of the finger-tips.
The hands will begin to tingle and throb as the blood supply returns and colour becomes normal. This in itself can cause temporary numbness, with an increase in pain and discomfort. Often simple treatment like placing the hands in warm water, or upon entering a warm room, will see the hands begin to return to a normal condition.
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There are no other obvious symptoms between attacks, however very rarely; a finger tip may develop an ulcer that will become infected during an attack of Raynaud’s disease. As time passes it may possible be subject to a gangrene infection which will require amputation. However this remains an extreme example.
The only way to protect against attacks of this disease is to keep the hands warm and away from cold weather, water, and wind. Secondly avoiding high levels of emotional stress will help prevent an attack from occurring.
Since there is no way of understanding what causes this disease, prevention remains impossible. Only by being aware of how to protect your hands, feet, toes and fingers can you protect yourself from the symptoms associated with Raynaud’s disease.