Raynaud phenomenon is an episodic reduction in the blood supply to the fingers and/or toes occurring mainly in response to cold (vasospastic disease). It can be divided into two main types:
1. Primary Raynaud phenomenon, also known as Raynaud Disease, and is not associated with any other conditions. ‘Disease' is perhaps a misnomer for a condition that affects at least one in five young women and could therefore be regarded as an exaggeration of the normal response of the circulation to cold.
2. Secondary Raynaud phenomenon either has an identifiable cause or is associated with some other condition.
An attack of Raynaud phenomenon is triggered by exposure to cold, such as going out into a cold wind or immersing the hands in cold water. Sudden emotional or psychological upsets can also bring on an attack. Typically, one or more fingers will turn white and numb and, on rewarming, blue due to a sluggish blood flow. This is then sometimes followed by a bright red colour due to a compensatory increased blood flow before the normal skin colour and sensation are restored. Attacks may be painful and can last from minutes to hours. The condition most commonly affects the hands, but sometimes involves the feet and occasionally the tip of the nose or the earlobes.
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