Raynaud's Phenomenon

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Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition resulting from poor circulation in the extremities (i.e., fingers and toes). In a person with Raynaud's phenomenon, when his or her skin is exposed to cold or the person becomes emotionally upset, the blood vessels under the skin tighten and the blood flow slows. This is called vasospasm. Hands and feet have fewer large blood vessels and, therefore, when a vasospasm occurs, it is harder for the blood to keep flowing and these areas may turn blue because less oxygen is reaching the skin. The skin will also feel cold because less blood is reaching the skin to keep it warm. While attacks of vasospasm may last from minutes to hours, only rarely do they cause severe tissue damage.

Raynaud's phenomenon is named after the French doctor Maurice Raynaud, who first described the condition in the mid-1800s. The condition is also known as Raynaud's syndrome or Raynaud's disease.

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Establishing the correct diagnosis is important, because something can be done to manage most forms of arthritis, and most therapies work best when started early in the disease.

Your doctor may be able to diagnose Raynaud's phenomenon based on a review of your medical history and by observing the effect of cold on areas such as your fingers. Sometimes your doctor may order certain tests, such as blood flow tests, to help confirm the diagnosis or to distinguish among different diseases.

Although there is no cure for Raynaud's phenomenon there are things you can do to help manage the condition. Your active involvement in developing your prescribed treatment plan is essential.

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Arthritis medications are designed to control a disease, slow its progression, and to help manage pain. There is a wide range of options – with new ones coming on the horizon – so understanding all possible treatments is not easy. 

These medications can be very complex, so you are encouraged to ask for in-depth explanations from your health care team – including pharmacists, who are an excellent source of information. 

To explore this area of treatment, The Arthritis Society has developed a comprehensive expert guide that delivers detailed information on medications used to treat arthritis.

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The optimal treatment is what is best in each individual case – so speak with your doctor and/or pharmacist about what kind of medications are most appropriate for you.

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