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Raynaud's Phenomenon (cont.)

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What are Raynaud's phenomenon symptoms and signs?

Symptoms of RP depend on the severity, frequency, and duration of the blood vessel spasm. Most patients with mild disease only notice skin discoloration upon cold exposure. They may also experience mild tingling and numbness of the involved digit(s) that will disappear once the color returns to normal. When the blood-vessel spasms become more sustained, the sensory nerves become irritated by the lack of oxygen and can cause pain in the involved digit(s). Rarely, poor oxygen supply to the tissue can cause the tips of the digits to ulcerate. Ulcerated digits can become infected. With continued lack of oxygen, gangrene of the digits can occur.

Less common areas of the body that can be affected by RP include the nose, ears, and tongue. While these areas rarely develop ulcers, they can be associated with a sensation of numbness and pain.

Patients with secondary RP can also have symptoms related to their underlying diseases. RP is the initial symptom of a majority of patients with scleroderma, a skin and joint disease. Other rheumatic diseases frequently associated with RP include systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjögren's syndrome.

How is Raynaud's phenomenon diagnosed?

In patients with the characteristic sequence of skin-color changes of the digits upon cold exposure, diagnosing RP is not difficult. Sometimes, certain patterns in the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) adjacent to the fingernails of patients with RP can be seen using a magnifying viewing instrument. Abnormal nail-fold capillary patterns can suggest the possibility of an associated rheumatic condition. There is, however, no single blood test to help the doctor to confirm the diagnosis. The doctor can order certain blood tests (for example, sedimentation rate, rheumatoid factor, antinuclear antibody, thyroid hormone levels, and protein levels) to exclude associated rheumatic diseases and thyroid disorders. The doctor can also perform certain maneuvers with the patient's extremities to exclude pinched blood vessels that can produce symptoms that mimic RP, such as in thoracic outlet syndrome.

Typically, patients with Raynaud's phenomenon that is a manifestation of a rheumatic disease have elevated blood sedimentation rates and antinuclear antibodies. Furthermore, capillary nail-fold abnormalities can frequently be found as described above.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/11/2014

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Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/raynauds_phenomenon/article.htm

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