Raynaud’s (ray-NODES or ray-NOHZ) is named for the French physician Maurice Raynaud, who first recognized the condition in 1862. The disease causes spasms in the nerve bundles surrounding blood vessels, which results in an interruption of blood flow to area affected. Typically, these spasms occur in the extremities (i.e. the fingers, toes, nose, and/or ears). Spasms are caused by exposure to a temperature differential—like stepping into an air conditioned room on a hot day or grabbing a cold drink—or emotional stress. Typically, the affected area turns white, then blue, then bright red over the course of an attack. There may also be tingling, swelling, or painful throbbing in the area. The attacks may last from minutes to hours. In severe cases, the area may develop ulcerations and infections, which can lead to gangrene, tissue damage, and even tissue loss.
Raynaud’s can occur as a “primary” disease; that is, with no associated disorder. It can also occur as a “secondary” condition related to other diseases, such as scleroderma, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Approximately 5-10 percent of all Americans suffer from Raynaud’s, but only one out of five sufferers seeks treatment. Both men and women suffer from Raynaud’s, but women are nine times more likely to be affected. Some researchers estimate as many as 20% of all women in their childbearing years have Raynaud’s.
Although it’s been over 100 years since Raynaud’s was recognized, little is still known about the condition or its cause. Currently, there is no cure for Raynaud's Disease. This has given rise to groups like The National Raynaud’s Association, which provides support to sufferers and seeks to raise awareness and understanding of this perplexing phenomenon.
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