By Julie Hancock
Raynaud’s disease is a condition characterized by reduced blood flow to certain areas of the body, especially the fingers and toes. Sometimes there is an underlying medical condition that is causing this phenomenon, known as secondary Raynaud’s, but sometimes this is not the case, and is subsequently referred to as primary Raynaud’s. Raynaud’s has a higher prevalence in women than men and is more likely to be found in people living in colder climates. Overall, 5% of the population has Raynaud’s.
In Raynaud’s, triggers such as cold temperatures or stress cause affected areas, like the extremities, to feel numb and turn white or purple. As the body warms, and circulation improves, the area tingles as blood flow returns. The exact cause of Raynaud’s is unknown, but the sensations occur due to arteries narrowing, knowing as vasospasm.
The best treatment for Raynaud’s is prevention. Avoiding the cold and wearing protective clothing such as gloves and hats is the best way to reduce symptoms. While the digits are most commonly affected, the nose, ears, and lips can also be involved. Nicotine and other stimulants, such as caffeine, can worsen symptoms, so avoiding these drugs may improve the condition for those affected. In the case of secondary Raynaud’s, it’s important to identify and treat the underlying condition, which often improves Raynaud’s symptoms as well.
Secondary Raynaud’s is associated with a large number of conditions, including connective tissue disorders, Lyme disease, hypothyroidism, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Some people afflicted with Raynaud’s develop chilblains, a dermatological disorder characterized by red and tender skin, especially on the extremities. This condition is best managed with systemic vasodilators such as nifedipine or omeprazole. If you are experiencing itchy, inflamed, or red skin on your fingers or toes, you should be evaluated by one of our providers in Crystal Lake, Elgin, Arlington Heights, or Barrington, especially with the upcoming winter season.