What is Raynaud’s Disease?

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By Dr. Sender Deutsch
Published on November 8, 2014

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a disorder that causes areas of your body, such as your hands and feet, to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress.  It is a condition in which the cause is unknown but appears to be more common in women than men and is very painful. It can be debilitating to those that suffer from it, especially if they live in colder climates.

In practice, most patients will explain that their hands get very pale, shaky, cold and numb with cold exposure. I find that many of these patients also have concurrent arthritic changes in other parts of their body, however; this is not always the case. Currently, it is thought that the disorder arises from an overactive sympathetic nervous system, which causes constriction of the blood vessels. This causes spasm of your extremities, arteries, and lack of circulation leading to hypothermia of the tissues.

It is important that the patient’s primary medical doctor is made aware of their symptoms to rule out any confounding or primary causes of the disorder. For example: rheumatoid arthritis, connective tissue and immune system disorders or vascular complications. All of which could potentially be causing the problem.

How Can Symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease be Prevented?

To prevent extreme pain from occurring with this condition, it is important that you prepare for wet, damp and colder conditions.  Carrying gloves, wool socks, hands and foot warmers, ear muffs, a hat, etc. which will help prevent heat from escaping and keep you warm. Protection is very important to prevent skin and tissue damage that can result in chronic repeated exposure.

Due to the cold weather temperatures at this time of year, we see more patients with this disorder. Many people are not prepared properly for the colder conditions. Patients with Raynaud’s experience similar issues as a result of the changes in weather conditions, see blog ‘Colder Weather Increases Pain Symptoms’, which can result in joint and tissues swelling causing increased pain and sensitivity.