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Raynaud's phenomenon or, simply, Raynaud's, is a disorder characterized by decreased blood flow - usually to the fingers, and less frequently to the ears, toes, nipples, knees, or nose. Vascular spasms usually occur as attacks in response to cold exposure, stress, or emotional upset.
Raynaud's can occur alone (primary form) or may occur with other diseases (secondary form). The diseases most frequently associated with Raynaud's are autoimmune or connective tissue diseases, among others, such as the following:
The exact cause of Raynaud's is unknown. One theory links blood disorders characterized by increased platelets or red blood cells that may increase the blood thickness. Another theory involves the special receptors in the blood that control the constriction of the blood vessels being more sensitive in individuals with Raynaud's.
There are certain diseases or lifestyle choices that can increase a person's risk for developing Raynaud's. These risk factors include the following:
The following are the most common symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
There are no specific laboratory tests that can confirm a diagnosis of Raynaud's phenomenon. Instead, diagnosis is usually based on reported symptoms. Your physician may perform a cold challenge test to bring out color changes in the hands.
Tests to determine which form-primary or secondary-of Raynaud's phenomenon a patient may have include a medical exam, blood tests, a complete medical history, and examination of fingernail tissue with a microscope.
Specific treatment for Raynaud's phenomenon will be determined by your physician based on:
Although there is no cure for Raynaud's phenomenon, the disorder can often be successfully managed with proper treatment. Treatment may include:
Individuals who first experience Raynaud's phenomenon after 35 to 40 years of age may be tested for an underlying disease. The primary form of Raynaud's is the most common type, and usually begins between 15 and 25 years of age. It is less severe, and few people with this form develop another related condition.