I have recently been diagnosed with Raynauds Phenomenon. It happened during Winter, at a particularly cold time on the South Coast of NSW. I noticed the tip of my finger was aching like I had pins-and-needles. It seemed to be ‘asleep’ and no amount of rubbing could get the feeling back. After about a week of very strange circulation and I went to the doctor…
Raynauds effects the small blood vessels in the extremities of the arms and legs. What is best described as a spasm in the blood vessels, they contract episodically and expand at strange times. Episodes of Raynauds can be caused by both cold temperatures and emotional stress.
What Does Raynaud’s Look Like?
Raynauds Phenomenon most commonly manifests itself as poor circulation. Your fingers and toes become cold and pale. This is because there is little to no blood in the extremity at the time. Fingers may then be rushed with blood and turn purple. Raynaud’s Phenomenon causes significant colour changes in the fingers and toes. Fingers and toes feel cold and are hard to warm up. Areas affected by Raynauds can appear blotchy, like red and white splotches and when you press the area, a white circle remains for more than three seconds.
Raynauds as an Autoimmune Disorder
The first thing you notice when looking for information online about Raynauds phenomenon, is the strong link to other Autoimmune Disorders. Many websites have information on Raynauds and something else. Raynauds and ITP. Raynauds and Lupus. Raynauds and Polymyositis.
The second thing you notice is that Raynauds Phenomenon is quite common. Lots of people have Raynauds. It is estimated that more than 20% of people have it, wether they are being treated for Raynauds or not. Many people who have Raynauds will only ever develop a very mild version of the vascular disorder, and will never be motivated to seek out treatment – they will just think they have bad circulation or naturally cold hands.
The treatments available for Raynaud’s can be quite invasive, for example you may take a blood thinning agent or a vasodilating drug that causes all the blood vessels in your entire body to dilate. These treatments are reserved for severe Raynaud’s Phenomenon as they can cause damage themselves. Mild to moderate Raynauds Phenomenon tends to be left untreated as it is an episodic disorder. Treatments start to be offered once the Raynauds causes pain.
Primary & Secondary Raynauds Phenomenon
Primary Raynauds – The exact cause of Raynauds Phenomenon is not known (Eye Roll). It may be either a thickness of the blood which would make circulation difficult, or a disfunction in the blood vessel receptors, causing them to spasm and behave sporadically. Primary Raynauds can also be caused by a number of life style factors such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
Primary Raynuads is an Autoimmune Disorder in itself, but what is really interesting is that Raynauds often proceeds the diagnosis of a second Autoimmune Disorder later in life.
Secondary Raynauds is when it can be linked to another or multiple Autoimmune Disorders. Raynauds often presents as a secondary disorder after diagnosis of schleroderma, Lupus, atherosclerosis, certain forms of arthritis and Buerger’s disease. High blood pressure and thyroid problems may play a part in developing Secondary Raynauds as well.
Patients with Secondary Raynaud’s can also have symptoms related to their underlying diseases. Raynaud’s phenomenon is the initial symptom that presents for 70% of patients with scleroderma, a skin and joint disease.
Do other people with ITP, also have Raynauds?
So this is how I ended up with Raynauds Phenomenon in my pointing finger. It is not unheard of for people with ITP to also have secondary Raynauds Phenomenon; particularly in Winter and my haematologist was not too concerned when I told her. But she did raise a little eyebrow at having Raynauds so young. It is commonly diagnosed in people over 40.
Is this a common thing people with ITP should be looking out for?
Has anyone else heard about a connection between ITP and Raynauds?
- Connective Tissue Disease, Holistic Therapy Options for Sjoegrens, Lupus, Secondary and Primary Raynaud’s Phenomenon and Polymyositis Dermatomyositis.
- Read more on ‘What is Raynaud’s from the website ITP Blood Disorder.
- There is a lot of great information on the Raynaud’s Association website Raynauds[dot]org including that great image I found.
- There is also a great Indian Australian Blog Raynauds Phenomenon who have concluded that people with Raynaud’s Phenomenon are emotionally sensitive and tend to have a very high IQ! I love it.
- A Personal Experience with Raynaud’s from an American, living through a Winter in Utah.