What Is Raynaud's Disease?

By dr. mera
Article Sources Article Sources
  • 1. Fava, A., & Boin, F. (1970, January 01). Historical Perspective of Raynaud's Phenomenon. Retrieved September 02, 2020, from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4939-1526-2_1
  • 2. Hansen-Dispenza, H., MD. (2019, November 02). Raynaud Phenomenon: Practice Essentials,Pathophysiology, Etiology. Retrieved 2020, from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/331197-overview#a5
  • 3. Goudry, B., Bell, L., Langtree, M., & Moorthy, A. (2012). Diagnosis and management of Raynaud’s phenomenon. BMJ, 344, 37-42. doi:10.1136/bmj.e289
Medical Expert Medical Expert

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a rare condition that can manifest as intermittent narrowing of blood vessels (vasospasm) of the extremities, especially of the fingers and toes. It results in restricted blood flow to the affected regions, also known as ischemia, causing several changes in their color and temperature. This phenomenon commonly occurs in response to an emotionally stressful situation or to changes in temperature. Furthermore, Raynaud’s phenomenon may be primary, also known as Raynaud’s disease, or secondary. The Primary Raynaud phenomenon is characterized by vascular manifestation alone, without an associated underlying condition. On the contrary, the secondary Raynaud phenomenon describes the same vascular manifestation, but it is related to a defined associated disease.

In general, Raynaud’s Disease occurs more frequently in women than in men. Moreover, it happens in the second or third decade of a person’s life. The prognosis for primary Raynaud’s phenomenon is excellent, and it rarely causes complications. Management of the condition is simple and requires only lifestyle changes and avoidance of possible stimuli. On the other hand, the prognosis for secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon depends on the associated condition. Complications in this condition are more frequent; hence, the management of acute episodes can be more complex.

1. History

Approximately 160 years ago a French doctor known as Maurice Raynaud discovered “Raynaud syndrome”. It was a disorder that, according to him, caused the narrowing of blood vessels and in extreme cases caused the development of gangrene in an extremity. He published his findings in his medical school graduation thesis in 1862; however, he failed to recognize that the symptoms of the condition could be also related to a general underlying disease. His work was later translated into English and the term “Raynaud’s phenomenon” was used all over the world to describe these episodes.1Fava, A., & Boin, F. (1970, January 01). Historical Perspective of Raynaud’s Phenomenon. Retrieved September 02, 2020, from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4939-1526-2_1

Later on, in 1932, Allen and Brown established the differences between Raynaud’s disease and secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon. Further theories of the underlying mechanisms of the conditions were proposed by other researchers. However, even after 160 years of studying Raynaud’s phenomenon, many aspects of the condition still remain unclear.

Raynaud's Disease

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