Raynaud's Phenomenon

Raynaud's Phenomenon and Scleroderma

My mother has a condition in which her fingers turn completely white--especially during the winter--and when the blood returns to her fingers, they tingle. A rheumatologist told her today that she possibly has scleroderma. What is the prognosis and treatment for this disease?

Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

The condition you are describing in your mother's fingers is compatible with Raynaud's phenomenon. Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition resulting in discoloration of the fingers and/or the toes after exposure to changes in temperature (cold or hot) or emotional events. Skin discoloration occurs because an abnormal spasm of the blood vessels causes a diminished blood supply to the local tissues.

Raynaud's phenomenon is particularly common in patients with scleroderma, although it may occur with other diseases or by itself. Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease of connective tissue. Autoimmune diseases are diseases which occur when the body's tissues are attacked by its own immune system. Scleroderma is characterized by the formation of scar tissue (fibrosis) in the skin and organs of the body. This leads to thickness and firmness of involved areas, most frequently in the fingers. The cause of scleroderma is not known.

Raynaud's phenomenon facts

  • Raynaud's phenomenon is characterized by a pale to blue to red sequence of color changes of the digits, most commonly after exposure to cold.
  • Raynaud's phenomenon occurs because of spasm of blood vessels.
  • The cause of Raynaud's phenomenon is unknown, although abnormal nerve control of blood-vessel diameter and nerve sensitivity to cold are suspected of being involved.
  • Symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon depend on the severity, frequency, and duration of the blood-vessel spasm.
  • There is no blood test for diagnosing Raynaud's phenomenon.
  • Treatment of Raynaud's phenomenon involves protection of the digits, medications, and avoiding emotional stresses, smoking, cold temperature, and tools that vibrate the hands. Continue Reading
Reviewed on 5/13/2016
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