Raynaud’s disease is an uncommon condition that has three main symptoms. The most obvious symptom experienced is a sensation of numbness or cold in the fingers or toes that occurs without reason. In some patients, the skin may change color and a sensation of pins and needles may be experienced as blood flow is restored.
The most common symptom of Raynaud’s disease is a feeling of cold or numbness in the fingers and toes. This sensation is due to the constricting of blood vessels that prevents the area from receiving enough blood. The numbness may affect all the fingers and toes, or the symptom may be present in just a few digits. It is also possible to experience this symptom in the nipples, lips, nose or ears.
When the blood vessels leading to an affected area are narrowed, the area does not receive enough blood, which often makes the area turn white. After a time, the affected area, deprived of oxygen, begins to turn blue. When the blood vessels open up again, the skin in the affected region usually turns red as blood is rushed back. Some or all of these color changes may be noticed, depending on the severity of the attack and the normal coloration of the patient.
Once the blood returns to the affected area, a feeling of pins and needles may occur. This sensation is similar to the one experienced when blood flow to a limb is temporarily cut off, causing the limb to “fall asleep.” In Raynaud’s disease, this symptom is often experienced at the end of an attack, as the skin begins to warm.
When the causes of Raynaud’s are unknown, the disease is referred to as primary Raynaud’s. Most people who have primary Raynaud’s disease do not suffer any serious complications. The disease is more annoyance than anything, causing brief periods of discomfort. This version of the condition can usually be treated at home by keeping hands and feet warm and soaking the affected areas in warm water at the first sign of symptoms. A doctor can also recommend medication if symptoms are severe.
For some patients, however, the disease is a secondary condition acquired from a more serious illness. When Raynaud’s is caused by another condition, it is known as secondary Raynaud’s or Raynaud’s phenomenon. Damage to the blood vessels or nerves, due to injury or strain, can be responsible for secondary Raynaud’s disease. Certain medications can also cause the blood vessels to constrict.