Ask a Hand Doctor: What Is Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a vascular disorder that causes the blood vessels in the hands or feet to contract unusually. This constriction cuts off the supply of blood to the area, which may result in the death of tissues. Fortunately, treatment by a hand doctor can help prevent further tissue loss and recurrence of attacks. However, understanding more about this condition is critical to preventing it from developing in the first place.

Primary Raynaud’s Versus Secondary Raynaud’s.

Two different types of Raynaud’s phenomenon exist. In primary Raynaud’s phenomenon, explains the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the vasospastic attack (the severe constriction of the blood vessels) is caused by cold temperatures or extreme emotional stress. When the constriction occurs in response to another health condition, such as lupus, it is known as secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Risk of Developing Raynaud’s Phenomenon.

Raynaud’s phenomenon may affect anyone, but most cases of primary Raynaud’s usually first appear before age 30. Other risk factors for developing primary Raynaud’s include the following:

  • Being female.
  • Having a family history of Raynaud’s.
  • Living in colder climates.

Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon usually occurs in those with connective tissue disorders. In fact, 90 percent of people with scleroderma also suffer from secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon. However, secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon may be caused by any ailment that can cause vascular damage. For example, smoking, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and previous treatment with chemotherapy increase the risk for developing the condition.

Can Raynaud’s Be Cured With Hand Surgery?

Raynaud’s is not considered to be a curable ailment. While nondrug therapies can help, hand doctors may opt to move into medication treatment and surgical options for severe cases.

For example, a severe case of secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon may cause ulcers to form on the fingers or hands. Digital sympathetctomy (a type of hand surgery) may be used to remove the nerves and tissue around the affected areas, which helps new blood vessels grow and promotes healing. However, this procedure is usually only temporary. As a result, proactive treatment of the condition that is causing secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon is essential to preventing future attacks.

Raynaud’s phenomenon seems strange, and it may be caused by the natural actions of the body in response to a heightened emotional state or cold temperatures. However, chronic health conditions can also cause Raynaud’s to develop, and if left untreated, you could risk losing your fingers, toes and extremities. To have your hands evaluated for problems with blood flow, such as those associated with Raynaud’s phenomenon, contact a hand doctor at the Florida Hand Center today.