Patients who commonly experience numbness in their fingers, toes, ears and tip of the nose may have more than the cool weather to blame. These are also symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome, a common condition in the U.S., resulting in more than 200,000 cases per year.
What is Raynaud’s syndrome?
Raynaud’s syndrome, also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon, involves a constricted blood supply to the affected areas – most commonly the tips of your fingers and toes – that can cause discoloration and numbness. This is typically caused by blood vessels in the area temporarily overreacting to cold temperatures. However, the same also can happen when a patient is undergoing a lot of stress.
Along with coolness and numbness in the affected areas, Raynaud’s can also cause the skin to become white or blue due to lack of oxygen. After the blood returns to the area, the skin usually becomes red and may throb or tingle.
Symptoms tend to flare up in the fall and winter due to cooler temperatures.
The symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome are easy to see. If your doctor suspects Raynaud’s, the next step is to determine if it is the primary or secondary form of the disease.
A common diagnostic test is a nail fold capillaroscopy. In this exam, the capillaries near the nail base are examined using a microscope. Enlarged or abnormal capillaries may indicate that the patient has secondary Raynaud’s syndrome.
In addition, your doctor may order blood tests, a urinalysis and a chemistry profile to further examine and diagnose Raynaud’s syndrome.
Primary Raynaud’s syndrome is managed by controlling your exposure to cold and stress. For secondary Raynaud’s syndrome, medications may be recommended. While the syndrome can cause pain and discomfort, it doesn’t cause serious health issues. But if you believe you may have this condition, meet with your primary care doctor to discuss being tested.
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