Raynaud’s is a disease that causes parts of the body but usually the fingers and toes to feel numb and cold due to cold temperatures and stress. Other  affected areas may include the ears, nose, lips and nipple [2] It is quite a common condition with 20% of the adult population having it worldwide and 10 million being estimated to have it in the UK [2].In most, cold temperatures cause the fingers and toes to lose heat because the blood vessels underneath the skin spasm, slowing down blood supply [2].  In those with Raynaud’s it’s like the arteries overreact to this temperature change and the small blood vessels become narrower than what is normal which further constricts blood flow. Strong emotions like stress can also cause this response.

The affected areas turn white and then blue (not for everyone though) during a Ranynaud’s attack but when circulation improves again, from the area becoming warmer, the area tingles. The symptoms can last from a few minutes to many hours [2].

In most cases, the symptoms can be controlled by wearing gloves and using relaxation in times of stress or medication like nifedipine (the only Raynaud’s disease/phenomenon licensed in Britain) which works as a calcium channel blocker to encourage blood vessels to widen [2]. However, if Raynaud’s is severe, the blood circulation to the toes and fingers could completely go but this is extremely rare.

There are two types of Raynaud’s: Primary Raynaud’s  which develops by itself and Secondary Raynaud’s [1] which is Raynaud’s caused by another health condition [2]. Examples of these Secondary Raynaud’s ‘inducers’ include diseases like rheumatoid arthritis [1] and infections to repetitive actions like playing an instrument and vibrating tools used at work. Smoking also increases risk due to how it constricts blood vessels. Risk also has hereditary connections; 1/3 of people with primary Raynaud’s have a close relative with the disorder too [1]. Also, women are slightly more likely to get it than men.

Now for the tests! The Mayo Clinic states that there are two blood tests that may be ordered although there are others that could be used in order to rule out any other issues:

  • The Antinuclear Antibodies Test where a positive test could indicate that the immune system is stimulated due to the presence of the antinuclear antibodies produced by the immune system. These are also linked to connective tissue diseases and other autoimmune disorders that increase the risk of Raynaud’s.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate which shows the rate at which red blood cells settle to the bottom of the tube; again an inflammatory or autoimmune disease can be detected by an above normal rate.

Sources used:

[1]http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/raynauds-disease/basics/definition/con-20022916

[2]http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Raynauds-phenomenon/Pages/Introduction.aspx

[3]http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Raynauds-phenomenon/Pages/Causes.aspx

 

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