Definition of Raynaud’s Syndrome

Raynaud’s SyndromeA condition in which the smallest arteries, the arterioles, in the hands and the feet spasm in response to cold.

The spasm interrupts the flow of blood to the fingers and toes, depriving them of oxygen.

Raynaud’s syndrome may be idiopathic (without identifiable cause) or secondary to other health conditions (notably connective tissue disorders).

Raynaud’s syndrome may also develop as a side effect of certain medications such as vasoconstrictors (drugs that cause the blood vessels to constrict).

Cigarette smoking is often a precipitating factor and worsens symptoms. Some doctors use the terms Raynaud’s disease to identify idiopathic Raynaud’s and Raynaud’s phenomenon to identify secondary Raynaud’s.

Possible Causes of Raynaud’s Syndrome

cigarette smokingdermatomyositis
electrical shockergot medications
frostbite or hypothermialong-term exposure to vibration
peripheral vascular disease (pvd)repetitive motion injuries
rheumatoid arthritisscleroderma
spinal cord injurysystemic lupus erythematosus (sle)

The doctor generally makes the diagnosis on the basis of the pattern of symptoms, which is distinctive and consistent.

The pattern includes three phases most easily identified according to the color of the fingers or toes:

  1. Cold causes the arterioles to spasm, depriving the fingers or toes of oxygen. The fingers or toes turn white.
  2. The veins and capillaries dilate, flooding the tissues with deoxygenated blood. The fingers or toes turn blue (cyanosis) and typically feel numb.
  3. With warmth the arterioles will relax, which restores the flow of circulation and floods the fingers or toes with oxygenated blood. The fingers or toes turn deep red, and may throb and feel hot.

Raynaud’s syndrome Treatment

The most effective treatment for Raynaud’s syndrome is keeping the fingers and toes warm to prevent the arterioles from spasming. When an attack occurs, warming the fingers or toes generally restores normal circulation and ends the symptoms. Stress and anxiety may sometimes initiate the symptoms. Relaxation methods such as meditation are helpful when this is the case. biofeedback is effective for some people, and regular physical exercise helps maintain circulation. When Raynaud’s syndrome fails to respond to preventive and lifestyle measures, doctors may prescribe medications such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, or topical nitroglycerin to relax the arterioles. Treating any underlying conditions helps mitigate the symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome.


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