Welcome to the Raynaud's Decision Guide.
We're sorry to hear you have Raynaud's!
The goal of this guide is to provide information while awaiting evaluation with your doctor, or additional information after you have seen him or her. Please keep in mind that this guide is not intended to replace a face-to-face evaluation with your doctor. The diagnoses provided are among the most common that could explain your symptoms, but the list is not exhaustive and there are many other possibilities. In addition, more than one condition may be present at the same time. For example, a person with Raynaud's could also have osteoarthritis that is unrelated.
This guide is intended for persons who have Raynaud's -- you may hear it called Raynaud's phenomenon, disease, or syndrome. Whatever the name, the basic problem in this condition is vasospasm -- that is, a blood vessel (the "vaso" part) suddenly constricts (the "spasm" part), usually after exposure to cold. Then, not enough blood can flow to the finger, toe or whatever part is affected. This is an exaggeration of the normal behavior of blood vessels. Tiny nerves tell the artery to open or close, depending on the situation. Usually with cold exposure, blood vessels constrict, or close a bit, to conserve heat, but for people with Raynaud's, that mechanism is overactive. The cause is not known. People with Raynaud's notice intensely cold fingers or toes, numbness, pain, and a color change -- typically from white to blue to red, and, eventually, back to normal, over a number of minutes.
Most people with Raynaud's (up to 90 percent or more) are otherwise healthy and have no other medical conditions. Raynaud's is quite common -- up to ten percent of healthy young women report symptoms suggestive of Raynaud's. The associated conditions, on the other hand, are rather rare, and include lupus, scleroderma and CREST syndrome, among others. There will be an opportunity to learn more about these conditions at the end of this guide.
Now, let's move on to the specifics of your situation.
Besides the Raynaud's, do you have one or more of the following:
tight, thickened skin over the fingers, hands, arms and/or face
pain in multiple joints that is worse in the morning
a chronic (long-standing) rash
chronic dry eyes and dry mouth
chest pain when you take a deep breath
severe reflux disease (also called GERD, a form of heartburn)?