Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition that results in a series of discolorations of the toes and fingers after they are exposed to changes in emotional events or temperature. There is an abnormal spasm of blood vessels due to which skin discoloration occurs. Thus the supply of blood to local tissues becomes much diminished.
However, due to this diminished blood supply, the digits that are involved turn white. The lack of oxygen is very prolonged at times. Hence, the digits turn blue. Finally, there is a reopening of blood vessels. Thus, a local “flushing” phenomenon is caused. This causes the digits to turn red. This is a color sequence which is three-phased. Most often, this is seen when a person is exposed to cold temperature. This is a characteristic of Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Women are very frequently affected by Raynaud’s phenomenon. This mainly happens during the second, third and fourth decades of life. This phenomenon can be experienced by people separately or sometimes as a part of rheumatic diseases. When the occurrence is separate, it is known as Raynaud’s disease. When it accompanies other rheumatic diseases it is also known as secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.
There are many causes of primary as well as secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon. The most contributing factors are nerve sensitivity when exposed to cold and abnormal nerve control of blood vessel diameter. The color changes in of digits have a relation to the initial blood- vessel narrowing which occurs due to the spasm of tiny muscles. The sudden opening or dilation follows this. The thickness of small arteries is microscopic. This leads to abnormal narrowing of blood vessels.
The association of Raynaud’s phenomenon is seen with many conditions. These include rheumatic diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. Sometimes it happens due to hormone imbalance, medications, trauma, estrogens etc.