Raynaud’s disease

A disorder of the blood vessels in which exposure to cold causes the small arteries supplying the fingers and toes to contract suddenly. This cuts off blood flow to the digits, which become pale. The fingers are more often affected than the toes. The cause is unknown, but young women are most commonly affected. On exposure to cold, the digits turn white due to lack of blood. As sluggish blood flow returns, the digits become blue; when they are warmed and normal blood flow returns, they turn red. During an attack, there is often tingling, numbness, or a burning feeling in the affected fingers or toes. In rare cases, the artery walls gradually thicken, permanently reducing blood flow. Eventually painful ulceration or even gangrene may develop at the tips of the affected digits. Diagnosis is made from the patient’s history. Treatment involves keeping the hands and feet as warm as possible. Vasodilator drugs or calcium channel blockers may be helpful in severe cases. (See also Raynaud’s phenomenon.)


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