Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition in which some areas of the
body, usually the fingers or toes, have an exaggerated response to cold
temperature or emotional stress. During an attack of Raynaud's, the blood
vessels in the affected areas tighten, severely limiting the flow of blood to
Normally the body narrows (constricts) these blood vessels when the
skin gets cold. This helps conserve body heat. Stress or exposure to cold
temperatures may trigger an exaggeration of this normal body function. The
fingers and hands (or, more rarely, the feet, nose, or ears) may turn pale,
white, and later blue and feel cold to the touch. Sometimes fingers or toes
feel numb and tingly, as if they have "fallen asleep," or they may become
painful and swollen.
Most cases of Raynaud's phenomenon have no known cause. But
some people may develop Raynaud's as a result of frostbite, an injury, or a
disease (such as lupus, scleroderma, atherosclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis).
Vibrations from power tools or drugs that affect blood flow (such as nicotine,
caffeine, and cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine) may also trigger
Treatment for Raynaud's phenomenon focuses on preventing attacks by
avoiding cold, stress, and other triggers. If your attempts to prevent attacks do
not work, prescription medicine may be helpful.
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology
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