What is Raynaud’s Disease / Raynaud’s Phenomenon ?
Raynaud’s phenomenon is a medical condition in which the arteries in the fingers and toes become suddenly narrowed in response to cold exposure, causing the digits to turn sequentially white, blue, or red. It is named after the French physician, Maurice Raynaud, who first described it. Although the fingers of healthy individuals may become pale in response to severe cold, the effect is exaggerated in individuals with Raynaud’s symptoms, so that even mild cold exposure, such as within one’s home, can cause significant symptoms. Raynaud’s symptoms have been estimated to be present in as many as one in twenty people.
Primary “Raynaud’s disease” refers to vasospasm (severe, temporary narrowing of the arteries) that happens with cold or stress without any other related medical condition. Some people have other medical illnesses, such as scleroderma or systemic lupus erythematosus. In these cases, “Raynaud’s phenomenon” is used to describe vasospasm of the digits in response to cold.
Eighty percent of sufferers are women, and as many as 5 percent of the U.S. population have Raynaud’s disease.