Symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon


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General information about symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon: The symptom information on this page attempts to provide a list of some possible symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon. This symptom information has been gathered from various sources, may not be fully accurate, and may not be the full list of symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon. Furthermore, symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon may vary on an individual basis for each patient. Only your doctor can provide adequate diagnosis of symptoms and whether they are indeed symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon.

List of symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon: The list of symptoms mentioned in various sources for Raynaud's phenomenon includes:

Symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon: Once the attack begins, a person may experience three phases of skin color changes (white, blue, and red) in the fingers or toes. The order of the changes of color is not the same for all people, and not everyone has all three colors. Pallor (whiteness) may occur in response to spasm of the arterioles and the resulting collapse of the digital arteries. Cyanosis (blueness) may appear because the fingers or toes are not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. The fingers or toes may also feel cold and numb. Finally, as the arterioles dilate (relax) and blood returns to the digits, rubor (redness) may occur. As the attack ends, throbbing and tingling may occur in the fingers and toes. An attack can last from less than a minute to several hours.1

When a person is exposed to cold, the body's normal response is to slow the loss of heat and preserve its core temperature. To maintain this temperature, the blood vessels that control blood flow to the skin surface move blood from arteries near the surface to veins deeper in the body. For people who have Raynaud's phenomenon, this normal body response is intensified by the sudden spasmodic contractions of the small blood vessels (arterioles) that supply blood to the fingers and toes. The arteries of the fingers and toes may also collapse. As a result, the blood supply to the extremities is greatly decreased, causing a reaction that includes skin discoloration and other changes.

Changes in Skin Color and Sensation

Once the attack begins, a person may experience three phases of skin color changes (white, blue, and red) in the fingers or toes. The order of the changes of color is not the same for all people, and not everyone has all three colors. Pallor (whiteness) may occur in response to spasm of the arterioles and the resulting collapse of the digital arteries. Cyanosis (blueness) may appear because the fingers or toes are not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. The fingers or toes may also feel cold and numb. Finally, as the arterioles dilate (relax) and blood returns to the digits, rubor (redness) may occur. As the attack ends, throbbing and tingling may occur in the fingers and toes. An attack can last from less than a minute to several hours.1

Symptoms include changes in skin color (white to blue to red) and skin temperature (the affected area feels cooler). Usually there is no pain, but it is common for the affected area to feel numb or prickly, as if it has fallen asleep. 2

Attacks are often triggered by exposures to cold or by emotional stress. During an attack, there is a severe reduction of blood flow to the extremities which may cause small blood vessels and arteries to collapse. There may be significant changes in skin color and sensation. An attack may last from less than a minute to several hours. 3

More symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon: In addition to the above information, to get a full picture of the possible symptoms of this condition and its related conditions, it may be necessary to examine symptoms that may be caused by complications of Raynaud's phenomenon, underlying causes of Raynaud's phenomenon, associated conditions for Raynaud's phenomenon, risk factors for Raynaud's phenomenon, or other related conditions.

Medical articles on symptoms: These general reference articles may be of interest:



Footnotes:
1. excerpt from Questions and Answers about Raynaud's Phenomenon: NIAMS
2. excerpt from NHLBI, Raynaud's Phenomenon: NHLBI
3. excerpt from Raynauds Phenomenon: NWHIC

Last revision: June 12, 2003

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