Raynaud's Disease vs. Raynaud's Phenomenon

There are many similarities between Raynaud's disease and Raynaud's phenomenon; they are two main types of one condition. Both are characterized by specific areas of your body developing a numb/cold sensation as a response to stress or cold temperatures. During a Raynaud's attack, your arteries which are responsible for carrying blood to your skin constrict and inhibit blood circulation in specific areas.

  1. The Facts

    • Primary Raynaud's, otherwise known as Raynaud's disease, occurs without any underlying medical problem. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is more prevalent in women and people living in cooler climates.

      Secondary Raynaud's, otherwise known as Raynaud's phenomenon, is caused by another disorder. Symptoms usually emerge in adults around the age of 40.

    Raynaud's Disease: Causes

    • According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors are not sure of the exact cause of Primary Raynaud's; however, researchers are studying a potential genetic link. When suffering from Raynaud's disease, your blood vessels in your feet and hands become hypersensitive to cold, resulting in a diminished blood supply to your toes and fingers. Stress also creates this exaggerated physical response and the constriction of your arteries leading to your extremities (vasospasm).

    Raynaud's Phenomenon: Causes

    • Raynaud's phenomenon can be caused by a variety of conditions, including lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, arterial diseases (like atherosclerosis, Buerger's disease and pulmonary hypertension) all affect your blood vessels, which can result in Raynaud's phenomenon. Carpal tunnel syndrome and trauma can cause nerve damage, which in turn can increase your risk of developing Raynaud's.

      Raynaud's has been seen in people who regularly operate vibrating tools, people who play the piano forcefully and people who type for extended times. If you smoke, you're at risk of developing the disease since smoking tobacco products leads to constriction of your blood vessels.

      Additional causes include prior history of injuries, and surgery or frostbite to the feet or hands. People taking beta blockers, chemotherapy medications, medications containing ergotamine, hypertension medications and medications containing estrogen are also candidates for Raynaud's.

    Symptoms

    • Symptoms often vary in accordance with the severity of your vasospasms and may include changes in the color of your skin in cold condidtions, and a numb, stinging or prickly feeling upon warming. You may experience symptoms in just one toe or three fingers. While Raynaud's most prevalently affects the fingers and toes, you may also experience symptoms on your nose, ears, lips or nipples.

      If you have Raynaud's phenomenon, you most likely have additional symptoms that are related to the underlying condition causing the Raynaud's.

    Treatment

    • Treatment of Raynaud's disease is usually limited to self-care steps (like keeping warm and avoiding extreme cold both of which will help prevent the sensation of having numb extremities). There are medications available to help dilate your blood vessels and increase circulation. The Mayo Clinic notes medications to avoid--including over-the-counter cold medications and birth-control pills. If your condition is very severe, you may consider surgical options.

      Treatment of Raynaud's phenomenon begins with treating the underlying condition causing it. In most cases, Raynaud's phenomenon can cause tissue damage and ulcers; therefore, it is usually treated with medication like calcium channel blockers, alpha receptor blockers and vasodilators.

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