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Can you please explain the condition "Raynauds Phenomenon?"
Sep 05, 2011

This condition is extremely common (10%-20% of the population) and occurs in the absence of any other disease. As you know, the symptoms are blueness, coldness, tingling and occasionally blanching of the hands, precipitated by cold conditions and/or emotional stress.

The condition was first described in France by Maurice Raynaud over 100 years ago. It is less frequent nowadays in ireland because of central heating. in the past children who had chilblains going to school often developed Raynauds later in life. The exact cause of the condition is unknown and the onset of symptoms in usually caused by spasm of the small blood vessels, particularly the small arteries of the fingers and toes. This presents initially with white appearance followed by redness which is due to the opening up of the blood vessels and eventually blueness which can be related to a stopping of the flow of venous blood in that area.

In most patients the condition is idiopathic, i.e. there is no obvious disease association.

Very rarely the condition is quite severe and can be associated with ulcers and significant impairment of the arterial blood supply to the tips of the fingers or the toes. This situation may need intensive and specialist treatment in hospital.

You ask how the symptoms can be prevented from worsening and how it is related to arthritis. The exact relation to arthritis is not certain. The condition is probably more common with a collagen disease like lupus or systemic sclerosis which may cause arthritis and is possibly less frequent in rheumatoid arthritis.

Methods of prevention include adequate warmth in the body including insulation, thermal underwear, several pairs of gloves and there are special gloves which can be electrically heated to keep the fingers warm. I do believe that one of the latest developments for keeping the feet warm is a type of electrode that can now be inserted into a boot to keep the feet warm.

Stopping smoking and biofeedback are helpful. Numerous drugs are available including Nifedipine, Nitrates and Prostogladins. Sometimes a surgical sympathectomy is necessary. With adequate heating and taking care to keep the body temperature as optimal as possible, the condition is usually tolerable, especially in your situation with Raynauds in association with Rheumatoid Arthritis.


This CAREGiver Q&A has been provided by Arthritis Ireland. For more information please visit the Arthritis Care section of our website and download a copy of Caring for a Person with Arthritis.

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