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Raynaud's Disease

What is Raynaud's disease?

Raynaud's disease is a non inflammatory disease of the circulation where there is spasm of the blood vessels to the peripheries resulting in a loss of normal circulation to those areas. This occurs in response to cold or emotional stress triggers.

There are two types of Raynaud's disease:

1. Primary Raynaud's disease – no associated disease. Often present since childhood.

2. Secondary Raynaud's disease – associated with another disease such as Lupus, or Scleroderma. Comes on in adult life.

What are the symptoms of Raynaud's disease?

When Raynaud's disease is triggered, the areas of the peripheries such as hands fingers, toes and ears go blue, then white. There is a sharp demarcation line between skin with normal circulation and skin that has had the circulation shut down.

It is triggered by exposure to cold and/or emotional stress. Even going to the fridge or freezer can trigger it in some people.

The hands are the most common site affected and an attack usually begins in one finger before spreading to the others.

Affected areas first go white, then blue. Episodes usually last between 15-20 minutes, but some can have longer lasting symptoms.

Fingers can feel numb +/- pins and needles when they are affected.

Who gets Raynaud's disease?

Primary Raynaud's disease comes on in young adult hood, teenage years and early 20s.

The onset of Raynaud's disease in later adulthood often heralds the onset of an auto-immune or other disease, perhaps not at the time, but is a warning that one may be imminent.

What causes Raynaud's disease?

We don't know exactly what causes it, either the primary condition or the secondary one.

Conditions associated with secondary Raynaud's disease include:

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Autoimmune connective tissue disorder such as:

    • Lupus (SLE), Scleroderma, Dermatomyositis

  • Drugs or toxins such as:

    • Amphetamines and some Chemo drugs

  • Hematological (blood) abnormalities such as:

    • Cryoglobulinemia, Cold Agglutinin disease, Paraproteinemia

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