This occurs because of excess collagen that has narrowed the blood vessels and the overreaction of the skin blood vessel to cold temperatures and emotional stress.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is a common condition. Most people with Raynaud’s phenomenon will NOT develop scleroderma. Conversely, almost everyone with scleroderma has Raynaud’s symptoms. Among those with scleroderma, the incidence increases to nearly 90%. For this reason, it is a “red flag” that can help lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment. Over time, patients with severe Raynaud’s who have significantly decreased blood flow to the fingers and toes may experience digital ulcers, ischemia, and even gangrene.
Women are much more likely to develop Raynaud’s than men.
Treatments for Raynaud’s Phenomenon
Mild symptoms can be managed by wearing gloves, earmuffs, and heavy socks, and being prepared for the cold. Additionally, wear protective clothing to maintain an adequate core temperature; this is important to prevent the tendency to divert blood away from the extremities when exposed to cold environments. In more serious cases, medications or medical procedures including surgery may be prescribed.
- Calcium channel blockers, which relax and open blood vessels
- Alpha blockers, which reduces the effects of the hormone that causes blood vessels to constrict
- Vasodilators, which relax blood vessels to keep them open
- Nerve surgery to interrupt the signals that control the opening and narrowing of blood vessels
- Injections of local anesthetics or Botox to block the nerves in hands and feet
Things that those with Raynaud’s should avoid include exposure to cold, stress and stressful events, and use of medications that cause blood vessels to constrict. These include some treatments for migraine, menopause, and attention-deficit disorder. Other substances with this effect include caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines, and cocaine.