Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition that can occur on its own (known as primary Raynaud’s), or it can be a sign of an underlying autoimmune condition (known as secondary Raynaud’s). It is estimated to affect an average of 6.5% of all people (8-10% of women and 3-5% of men) and tends to start showing up between the ages of 15 and 25.
Raynaud’s affects the arteries and blood vessels, causing vascular ‘spasms’ that restrict blood flow to ears, toes, nipples, knees, and nose. The result is uncomfortable and usually causes discoloration. These spasms can be triggered by mild cold, sudden vibrations, or even emotional distress.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is often associated with Sjögren’s Syndrome, though it can also be a sign of other underlying conditions. It is not in itself known to be of autoimmune in nature, but its exact cause is unknown. Other diseases linked to Raynaud’s include lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis, and thyroid conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
What Does Raynaud’s Look Like?
This condition can manifest itself in different ways. Most commonly, affected areas will turn white in color, then blue, and then red as blood returns to the area. When blood flow is returning, this can cause a throbbing sensation that may feel uncomfortable.
Areas of the body that are affected by Raynaud’s vary. Besides the hands and feet, it can also cause discomfort and discoloration in other places where blood is restricted easily.
In the nose and face:
In the ears:
In the knees:
Risk for Raynaud’s increases with connective tissue or autoimmune disorders, smoking, and trauma/injury. Symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to cold in ears, toes, nipples, knees, or nose
- Fingers that turn pale or white then blue when exposed to cold, or during stress or emotional upset, then red when the hands are warmed
- Hands that may become swollen and painful when warmed
In extreme cases, Raynaud’s can cause sores on the finger pads and even lead to gangrene and amputation. Those with this condition are more susceptible to frostbite when spending time in colder climates. Thermographic tools may be used to assess the severity of this condition by revealing blood flow through infrared technology. Here is an example of what that looks like:
This image shows two peoples’ hands after being exposed to cold water for 2 minutes. The hand on the left belongs to the person who is not affected by Raynaud’s. You can see that heat is returning to their hand by the yellow and red colors. On the other hand (literally), you can see that the fingers are having a hard time heating back up after the cold exposure. They are still black and purple on the infrared spectrum, which represents a lower temperature. This hand belongs to a person affected by Raynaud’s syndrome.
People with Raynaud’s cope by wearing gloves and hats, using hand and toe warmers, generally avoiding exposure to cold, and even taking blood pressure medications to increase blood flow during the winter months. Because this condition may be a sign of an underlying, more serious condition, we recommend consulting a doctor trained in autoimmunity if you experience the symptoms discussed in this blog. Commonly when we develop and execute care for our clients they notice significant improvements as their immune system heals.
Our passion at Dr. Autoimmune is to get to the root cause of your condition(s). For autoimmune patients especially, this means healing the gut and identifying and removing triggers. We use natural methods to give your body the tools it needs to heal itself. If you suspect you may have Raynaud’s, our comprehensive assessment process will help you get the answers, and solutions, you are looking for. Use the form below to find out more information about our New Patient Special.