Raynaud’s disease : difference with the syndrome, causes, treatments

White fingers, numbness… The return of cold weather marks in some women the return of Raynaud’s syndrome or disease. What do you do when that happens?

When should you seek medical attention? What causes it? Answers from our medical expert.

Raynaud's Disease

Photo Anastasiya Gepp in Pexels

Difference between Raynaud’s disease and Raynaud’s syndrome

We talk about “Raynaud’s syndrome” but “the real term is ‘Raynaud’s phenomenon’ which is the clinical description,” says Dr. Jean-Benoît Monfort, dermatologist and member of the French Society of Dermatology (SFD). It is a blood circulation disorder that affects the extremities.

“The toes are affected more frequently, more rarely the toes and exceptionally the ears or the nose,” says the doctor. It is distinguished:

  • “Raynaud’s disease, which is the so-called ‘primitive’ cause, that is, without an underlying cause,
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon, which is a secondary symptom of underlying diseases.

“This is a hyper-reactivity of the microcirculation when exposed to cold,continues Dr. Monfort. In this case, the vessels that irrigate the body’s periphery show a decrease in diameter, which is called “vasoconstriction.

This allows the maximum amount of blood to be sent to the vital organs that are favored, such as the heart, lungs and brain.

The circulation of the blood that irrigates these extremities slows down, which explains why they are so cold. In a person with Raynaud’s disease, the arteries become excessively narrow and blood flow is reduced.

Raynaud’s disease, which is benign, accounts for more than 80% of cases.

Causes

“Raynaud’s disease has no real cause. It tends to occur in young women, often in a family context [often hereditary],” continues Jean-Benoît Monfort.

Raynaud’s disease, which is benign, accounts for more than 80% of cases.

In more rare cases, Raynaud’s phenomenon can be secondary to autoimmune diseases (systemic scleroderma, lupus), to the taking of certain drugs (beta-blockers, triptans used for migraines)”.

Occupational causes (disease of vibrating machinery in men who regularly use a jackhammer), cancers (feared in typical smokers).

But also certain blood diseases (hemopathies, monoclonal gammopathies) or endocrine pathologies (hypothyroidism, acromegaly).

“Fingers suddenly turn white with a numb feeling.

Symptoms

“Fingers suddenly turn white with a feeling of numbness.

This is essential. Sometimes, they turn blue, then after warming up they turn red, secondary to a reflex vasodilation, with a tingling sensation,” explains Jean-Benoît Monfort. All these disorders are reversible. An attack can last from a few minutes to a few hours.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is clinical. “It is made through the interrogation of the patient and sometimes through the photos he brought with him. Possible additional tests will be performed, such as blood tests for autoimmune diseases and capillaroscopy, a painless test to study the capillaries in the skin.

“If these two tests are normal, then it is a primitive Raynaud’s phenomenon, with no underlying disease, that does not need to be monitored.

Furthermore, these tests will help us not to confuse Raynaud’s phenomenon with acrocyanosis, which is very common and also manifests itself as bluish fingers in winter.

“This pathology also develops in the classic young and thin woman. It is perfectly benign and does not require any check-up,” assures Jean-Benoît Monfort.

“Any Raynaud’s phenomenon should be explored, even if it is benign in a young woman.”

Natural treatments and remedies

There is no definitive cure for these conditions. People affected by Raynaud’s disease never even take medication, unlike those affected by secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Calcium channel blockers are used as a first line treatment. These are drugs that are usually used for high blood pressure.

They help dilate the small vessels and provide good symptom relief. In severe cases, venous infusions are performed in the hospital,” develops Jean-Benoît Monfort.

In addition, for people with Raynaud’s disease, simple things can and should be put in place. “Protection from the cold is essential: gloves to wear, small heaters to put in your pocket… Arms and trunk should also be protected, so warm clothing should be worn. “

When to consult?

See your doctor as soon as this happens for a referral to a dermatologist or vascular doctor.

“Any Raynaud’s phenomenon must be explored, even if it is benign in a young woman”, confirms Jean-Benoît Monfort.

When do you have to worry?

Raynaud’s phenomenon is worrisome when it occurs after the age of approximately 35, whether it affects humans, a single hand, or when it is accompanied by small spontaneous ulcerations of the fingertips.

In these cases, “management must be quick because there is most likely an underlying disease of which Raynaud’s phenomenon is one of the manifestations”.

Prevention

Raynaud’s phenomenon improves with weight gain and tends to improve with age in primitive forms.

In addition, quitting smoking is mandatory, as it is toxic to the blood vessels and promotes vasospasm. “There is no other way to prevent Raynaud’s phenomenon than to avoid smoking.

Once it has been reached, the best way is still prevention against the cold”, concludes Jean-Benoît Monfort.

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