Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition in which cold temperatures or strong emotions cause blood vessel spasms that block blood flow to the fingers, toes, ears, and nose.
Raynaud's phenomenon can be associated with diseases of the arteries such as:
Other causes of Raynaud's phenomenon may include:
- Repeated injury, particularly from vibrations such as those caused by typing or playing the piano
- Overdose of of certain medicines, including ergot compounds and methysergide
Strong emotion or exposure to the cold causes the fingers, toes, ears, or nose to become white, then turn blue. When blood flow returns, the area becomes red and then later returns to normal color. The attacks may last from minutes to hours.
Specific symptoms include:
- Toes or fingers that change color when exposed to the cold
- Toes or fingers that change color upon pressure
- Pain in the fingers or toes when exposed to the cold
- Tngling or pain on warming
Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
- Skin redness or inflammation
- Bluish skin
Exams and Tests
The doctor will perform a physical exam. Vascular ultrasound and a cold stimulation test for Raynaud's phenomenon may be done.
Medications to relax the walls of the blood vessels may be prescribed. Treatment of the underlying condition is important.
The outcome varies depending on the cause and the severity of the phenomenon.
If the condition gets worse, blood flow to the area could become permanently decreased causing the fingers to become thin and tapered, with smooth, shiny skin and slow growing nails. If an artery becomes blocked completely, gangrene or ulceration of the skin may occur.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have a history of Raynaud's phenomenon and the affected body part (arm, hand, leg, foot, or other part) develops an infection or ulceration.
Avoid exposure to the cold, and when cold cannot be avoided, dress warmly. If you smoke, stop smoking, as it further constricts the blood vessels.