White or blue finger: Raynaud’s disease
Smaller arteries tense up
Seizure-like circulatory disorders in the fingers are called Raynaud’s disease. The Symptoms – whitening of the fingers or the whole hand, followed by a deep blue and then red discolouration – occur particularly in cold weather. The cause of this is cramps in smaller arteries.
The human body needs a semi-constant core temperature to be able to function properly. Temperature is maintained by narrowing the blood vessels in a cold environment in order to counteract the loss of heat, and by expanding in a warm environment so that the heat does not build up.
For people with Raynaud’s, these reactions can appear excessively, with the small arteries contracting in the hands, feet, ears, cheeks, nose, and, very rarely, even in the nipples. The blood cannot enter the limbs and through the sudden cramp-like contractions, the toes appear white, then bluish, cold, rigid and numb. When the attack is over, usually in a warmer environment, the fingers (or toes) turn dark red, begin to sting, itch, burn, or throb. These attacks can last from a few minutes to several hours.
TREATMENT AND THERAPY
Since the cause of Raynaud’s syndrome is not known, the doctor can only alleviate the symptoms. Besides general measures, expanding the blood vessels with the help of medication is often tried. Although such treatment is often used, it can be problematic because many Raynaud’s patients have low blood pressure, which is further reduced by vasodilation.
Forms of disease
The primary Raynaud disease is a purely functional disorder of the small supplying vessels of the acra (the ends of the body) with no recognisable underlying disease. A typical characteristic is an attack on both sides of the body of the hands or toes, although the thumb or big toe is usually spared, occurs before the age of 40 and is hereditary. Women are much more often affected than men.
This form is the most common and affects around 70% of Raynaud’s patients.
In the secondary case of Raynaud’s disease, there is often an unequal attack on the hands and/or feet, which indicates an underlying disease. It is usually a vascular inflammation resulting from a connective tissue disease, or a vessel calcification (arteriosclerosis).
TRIGGERING FACTORS AND FREQUENCY
Typically, Raynaud’s attacks are more common in winter; an attack, however, can be triggered by simply reaching into the fridge, gripping a cold steering wheel or washing your hands in cold water.
Raynaud’s disease occurs in 3-16% of the population, and five to ten times more in women than men. The first symptoms usually present between the ages of 14 and 40. In men, the disease occurs mainly in later life.
Behavioural tips for patients with Raynaud’s
Protect yourself from cold, wet conditions!
Wear warm clothing, especially warm gloves
Protect yourself from injury!
Your circulatory disorder means you are prone to wound healing problems
Sports activities increase the blood pressure and promote blood circulation
Avoid smokey rooms. Nicotine also constricts the blood vessels.
This aggravates the afflictions and the disease progresses faster
Try to avoid or completely eliminate excessively stressful situations
Eat healthy. Vitamins, especially C, E and folic acid have a protective effect on the vessels
Do not take any medicines without the advice of your doctor!
If you have headaches or a cold, consult your doctor. Many pain and cold remedies contain substances which narrow the vessels