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What is Raynaud’s Disease by Chelsea Gamewell

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Raynaud’s Disease is a rare condition, which most find to be a nuisance more than a disability. It is most commonly found in women or people who live in cold climates. There are two different classifications of this disease, secondary and primary Raynaud’s. The primary is the more common of the two classifications. Secondary comes into effect, because of another disease, illness, or means one might have. As a consequence of having this disease, one will find themselves to have episodes of cold fingers and toes, mostly at the tips. Others with the more serious effects will also have a cold nose, ears, nipples, and lips.

Episodes can be triggered by many different factors, such as a brief and fast change in temperature. Suppose you walk into a freezer at your job, since the temperature in there is so cold your vessels begin to vasoconstrict including your digitals, the vessels in the tips of your fingers. Vessels do this to prevent any more heat from escaping your body. If you have Raynaud’s Disease your vessels will also vasoconstrictor, but more than someone without the disease. This leads to your digitals having a cross-section where little to no blood can flow past. It can also be triggered on an emotional level, such as being nervous. When you are nervous your sympathetic nervous system is stimulated and adrenaline is released into your bloodstream which also causes your vessels to vasoconstrict.

Vasoconstriction allows less blood flow throughout your digitals. With less blood flow throughout your fingers, you experience a cold or numbing sensation due to the lack of heat. Color changes also occur from pinkish color fingertips to white or blue fingertips. When you begin to warm back up, your vessels begin to vasodilate again. Blood can flow easily through the vessels again and you may feel a burning sensation when this occurs. Several episodes of Raynaud’s can lead to dead body tissue or sores called Gangrene, but this is very rare.

For those with a mild case of Raynaud’s Disease, there are some obvious treatments to choose from such as dressing in layers or wearing thick gloves, and socks. If you happen to live in a cold climate, your best option would be to move to a warmer place where your symptoms would greatly decrease. On the other hand, those with the more serious and frequent attacks need to take different precautions. Medicines that have channel blockers help to vasodilate your vessels and allow more blood flow. Alpha-blockers can also vasodilate your vessels by counteracting with norepinephrine, which is a hormone that vasoconstrictions vessels. If you are someone with low blood pressure this is not an option. Other options include surgery called sympathectomy. In the tips of your fingers and toes, as well as other parts of your body, there are nerves called sympathetic nerves. These nerves are what cause your vessels to vasoconstrict or dilate. In a sympathectomy, a doctor will cut away at these nerves and as a result, your vessels will have less of an intense reaction. Chemical injections have the same effect except instead of removing the nerves the chemicals block them.

The most effective way to be tested is through a nailfold capillaroscopy. This is when a doctor looks at the vessels in your fingers through a microscopic examination to see whether or not you have effective blood flow. A cold stimulation test can also be used. The doctor will stick your hand in cold water for a certain amount of time. Once he takes your hand out he will tape devices to your fingers that measures temperature. The time it takes your fingers to return to normal temperature defines whether you have the disease, 20 minutes or more is the determination. Blood tests can also be taken, but are only used to abolish other diseases that have similar symptoms. Many people go throughout their life without being diagnosed. The reason is, that an inconsiderable amount of people are aware of this disease.


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