A disorder of the blood vessels in which exposure to cold creates the small arteries supplying the toes an fingers to contract unexpectedly. This action cuts off blood flow to the digits, which become pale. The fingers are more commonly affected than the toes. The cause of Raynaud’s disease is unknown, but young women are most frequently affected.
Symptoms arise with no known cause. On exposure to the cold, the digits turn white due to the lack of blood. As a sluggish blood flow returns, the digits then become blue; when they are warmed and normal blood flow comes back, they turn red. Whilst an attack is taking place, there is usually tingling, burning feeling in the affected toes and/or fingers, and numbness. In unusual cases, the artery walls eventually thicken, permanently reducing blood flow, leading to excruciating ulceration or even gangrene (tissue death) at the tips of the afflicted digits.
Treatment involves keeping the feet and hands warm as is possible; it is also vital to stop smoking. Calcium channel blockers or vasodilator drugs can be administered in extreme cases.