What is Raynaud’s?
Do your hands, fingers or toes ever look white or blueish/ purple?
1 in 6 people in the UK live with Raynaud’s, a condition that affects the blood supply to certain parts of the body – usually the fingers and toes.
The most common form of Raynaud’s is primary Raynaud’s phenomenon. This means the condition occurs by itself, without being associated with another health condition.
It seems that primary Raynaud’s is caused by disruptions in how the nervous system controls blood vessels.
Exactly what causes these disruptions is unclear. There is some evidence that primary Raynaud’s may be an inherited condition, as cases have been known to run in families.
In some cases, an underlying health condition could be causing the blood vessels to overreact. This is called secondary Raynaud’s. The majority of cases of secondary Raynaud’s are associated with autoimmune conditions, which cause the immune system to attack healthy tissue.
Autoimmune conditions known to be associated with secondary Raynaud’s include:
Scleroderma – a condition that causes hardening and thickening of the skin.
Rheumatoid arthritis – which causes joint pain and swelling.
Sjogren’s syndrome – where the immune system attacks the body’s sweat and tear glands.
Lupus – which causes tiredness, joint pain and skin rashes.
Why do people get Raynaud’s?
The cause of the condition is still unknown and we’re still not sure why some people get Raynaud’s, while others don’t. What we do know is that the attacks themselves can be triggered by a change in temperature, emotional changes, stress, hormones or sometimes can be caused by using vibrating tools. Raynaud’s cannot be passed from one person to another and is not a contagious condition.
Who is likely to get Raynaud’s?
Primary Raynaud’s is more common in young women and girls, but both forms of the condition can affect men and women, or children, of any age. Many people with Raynaud’s have never seen a doctor about it. If you or someone you know suffers from cold hands or feet regularly, it is always worth getting it checked out. There are excellent Raynaud’s phenomenon treatments that can relieve the symptoms, and conditions causing secondary Raynaud’s may need to be excluded.
Around 1 in 10 people with primary Raynaud’s go on to develop an autoimmune condition. Other causes of Secondary Raynaud’s may include:
n Carpal tunnel syndrome – this condition involves pressure on a major nerve to your hand (median nerve) producing numbness and pain in the affected hand.
n Injuries – to the hands or feet, such as wrist fracture, surgery or frostbite, can lead to Raynaud’s phenomenon.
n Repetitive action or vibration – typing, playing piano or doing similar movements for long periods and operating vibrating tools, such as jackhammers, can increase your risk of developing Raynaud’s