Raynaud’s is a rare condition that involves vasospasms, or narrowing of blood vessels, commonly in of the fingers. Arteries are the circulatory structures that carry nutrient and oxygen rich blood from the heart to all the organs and structures of the body. During a vasospasm, when the arteries are narrowed and blood cannot travel freely to its intended destination, the intended tissue is deprived of essential nutrients. Prolonged nutrient deprivation can lead to cell and eventually tissue death.
Raynaud’s disease verses Raynaud’s phenomenon
There are two types of Raynaud’s - disease and phenomenon.
Raynaud’s disease is the more common and less severe form of the condition; whereas Raynaud’s phenomenon is caused by an underlying disease, condition, or other factor. Despite the type of Raynaud’s, there are similarities between the two conditions. Cold and stress can trigger a “Raynaud’s attack”. Additionally, hands are primarily affected in both conditions. As blood flow returns to the affected limb, the tissue can turn red and throb, and tingling/burning/numb sensation is common.
But wait... How is Raynaud’s different than frost bite?
Frost bite is exposure to extreme cold temperatures or extreme cold water for prolonged time resulting in actual tissue damage; compared to temporary changes in skin temperature and stiffness with Raynaud’s. Frost bite can vary in severity from “frost nip” (mild skin irritation and redness) to tissue death (necrosis) resulting in loss of limbs or fingers.
Now what do I do with this information?
Unfortunately, Raynaud’s does not go away but you can decrease how often an “attack” occurs and help improve blood flow with some of these tips:
- Limit exposure too or avoid cold extremes
- Wear gloves for circulation or just for warmth
- Implement stress management techniques, such as mental imagery or deep breathing