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Raynaud Phenomenon (cont.)

What Are Raynaud's Phenomenon Risk Factors?

Some people are more likely to develop Raynaud's phenomenon compared to others. Risk factors that have been identified include the following:

  • Gender: Primary Raynaud's phenomenon is more common in women than men.
  • Raynaud's phenomenon may occur at any age but is most common between the ages 15-35.
  • The disorder is more common in populations of people who reside in cooler climates.
  • If someone in the family has Raynaud's phenomenon, then there is an increased risk of a family member developing the disorder. Approximately one-third of Raynaud's phenomenon occurs in first-degree relatives.

When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for Raynaud's Phenomenon?

Attacks of Raynaud's phenomenon may be harmless and resolve on their own, especially if you have reversible causes and no underlying serious internal disease. However, your doctor may suggest ways to manage and treat the disease.

Call your doctor in the following instances:

  • Your extremities remain cool or discolored, despite rewarming.
  • There is an increasing frequency and severity of attacks despite prevention techniques.
  • You need help to quit smoking.
  • Ulcers develop over the fingertips or toe tips.
  • Pain is unrelenting.

If you have continuing discoloration of the fingertips or on parts of your arms or legs, or if it appears that skin breakdown or ulcerations may be present, prompt medical evaluation is needed.

What Are Symptoms and Signs of Raynaud's Phenomenon?

When someone has an attack of Raynaud's phenomenon, the small arteries of the arms and legs go into spasm or become narrow, which limits blood flow to the distal organs. The tissues become deprived of the blood's oxygen, which causes color changes in the skin. However, it should be understood that Raynaud's phenomenon is not the same as frostbite.

  • At first, the skin blanches, turning very white, then becomes blue as the oxygen in the involved tissue lowers. As the blood flow improves, the skin often becomes red and will throb. These classic three color changes are not seen in all people, and the order of the color change may also vary. The affected individual will also report numbness in the fingers and occasional pain. The affected skin feels very cold. The areas suffering from lack of oxygen are very well demarcated, usually occurring at joint lines.
  • Changes usually occur in the fingers. Blanching may occur in only one or two fingers, but it is not uncommon to see changes in all fingers. In addition, it may affect the toes, tip of the nose, nipples, lips, or even the earlobes. Raynaud's phenomenon is almost always bilateral but occasionally may only affect one hand.
  • After the arteries relax again, the tissues receive more oxygen. Skin color changes from blue to a bright red color. The color change from white to blue to red is called a triphasic reaction. These color changes are essential information for your doctor to make the diagnosis.

The Raynaud's phenomenon attack usually lasts a few minutes, although sometimes it may last several hours.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017
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