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Dec 30, 2020
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Doctor, my fingers are blue: how to recognize Raynaud’s disease

Raynaud’s disease (RD) is a disease in which the digital arteries and skin vessels react excessively to spasmodic conditions due to exposure to cold, emotional stress, or for no apparent reason. First described in 1862 by the French physician Maurice Reynaud. This condition affects 3-5% of the population, mainly in northern countries. In women, this condition is diagnosed 5-8 times more often than in men, mainly at the age of 20-40 years. Raynaud’s disease is often combined with severe migraines.

In the international classification of ICD-10, there are two forms of this condition: primary and secondary. The most common is primary Raynaud’s disease, the symptoms of which are mild enough that patients do not always seek treatment. Most often, this disease goes away on its own.

The secondary form is called Raynaud’s syndrome or phenomenon and is detected much less often – in about 20% of cases. This is a more serious condition, which usually develops against the background of certain pathologies:

  • Connective tissue diseases. Raynaud’s syndrome is often diagnosed in people with scleroderma, which causes scarring of the skin;
  • Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and other autoimmune diseases;
  • Arterial disease;
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, which results from repetitive movement or constant exposure to strong vibration, such as playing the piano or typing.

What other causes can cause Raynaud’s disease and syndrome?

The exact reasons for the development of this disease are still unclear, but, presumably, genetic predisposition plays an important role. It is believed that pronounced vasospasm manifests itself in response to provoking stimuli due to a defect in the central and local mechanisms of regulation of vascular tone by the nervous system. Doctors identify several risk factors for the development of primary and secondary forms of Raynaud’s disease:

  • frequent and prolonged exposure to cold on the limbs;
  • frequent finger injuries;
  • endocrine and rheumatic diseases;
  • severe emotional stress.

What symptoms might indicate this condition?

Signs of Raynaud’s disease depend on the stage of the disease:

  • The first stage – fingers (possibly nose and ears) become pale, cold to the touch, sensitivity decreases.
  • The second stage – the spasm is manifested by a blue-violet color of the skin, tingling appears, and at times severe pains, sensitivity disappears in the places of asphyxia. At this stage, an immediate cessation of the provoking factor is required – most often it is cold.
  • The third stage develops after a long second, there are bubbles with bloody contents. After opening the bladder, tissue necrosis is found in its place, and in more severe cases, not only of the skin, but of all tissues to the bone. This condition can lead to disability for the patient.

Primary Raynaud’s disease can be confused with frostbite because it has very similar symptoms. The main difference between this condition and frostbite is the regularity of the manifestation of signs of the disease and faster recovery. In addition, frostbite of the fingers can only occur after a long stay in very low temperatures, and in Raynaud’s, symptoms appear with a little frost or in a cold room.

Which doctor should I go to?

If you find yourself with one or more of these symptoms, you should contact your doctor or rheumatologist as soon as possible.

How is the diagnosis carried out?

The specialist makes the diagnosis based on clinical data – symptoms, age of the patient, concomitant diseases, which can be risk factors for the secondary form of Raynaud’s syndrome. Differential diagnosis of the primary and secondary forms is carried out using blood tests and laboratory tests.

Is it being treated?

Both the disease and Raynaud’s syndrome cannot be completely cured, however, timely prescribed therapy and psychotherapeutic techniques minimize the manifestations of pathology. As a rule, the doctor prescribes vasodilator drugs, which will have to be taken throughout life. In difficult cases, sympathectomy, when, with the help of a surgical intervention, the nerve fibers, along which pathological impulses go, causing vasospasm


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