Health Matters: Primary and Secondary Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Secondary Raynauds will cause much discoloration and happens much more often

HEALTH MATTERS — If you find your finger tips are often uncomfortable in the cold, you may have Raynaud’s pehnomenon.

When you live in a colder climate, how do you know if the pain could be a result of an autoimmune disease?

Many of us know the pain the tips of our fingers and toes can feel when we’re out in the cold.

Raynaud’s phenomenon is more than what the average person feels.

In fact, it’s a difference you can see.

“It’s a very marked change whenever you have slight variations in temperatures,” said Dr. Melissa Blom, with Essentia Health Rheumatology.

Raynaud’s phenomenon comes in two forms.

Primary and secondary.

“Primary, which is the most common that we see, a lot of people have it, especially young women,” said Dr. Blom.

It’s very common that people with the primary symptoms feel a numbness or cooling sensation in their finger tips.

They may also see changes in color.

Most of the time, people with primary Raynaud’s may decide they don’t need to see a physician.

Some, however, may choose to check with a doctor.

“It’s an exaggerated response to cold and emotional stress,” said Dr. Blom. “It’s not your typical ‘Oh I have cold hands,’ especially living in North Dakota.”

People with secondary Raynaud’s may experience discoloration that lasts longer and is more severe.

It’s also much more painful and comes fast and often.

In those cases, the phenomenon is a result of another disease.

“Usually, if you are having other symptoms, like getting more tired, having changes in your skin, getting a thickening of the skin on the fingers especially,” explained Dr. Blom. “Reoccurring sores in your mouth. These entities suggest things like scleroderma, lupus or something else that’s going on.”

Another sign of having the secondary disease is having the color change and numbness in only a few fingers, or only on one hand or foot at a time.

“The skin at the tips of your fingers usually change in color,” said Dr. Blom. “First, to white, because you have lack of blood flow to the area and with time if you continue to have the cold exposure, it can actually turn blue or purple.”

With this disease, if any part of your body is cold, your fingers and toes will feel the sensation.

Dr. Blom said as a general rule, if you have any discoloration, you should check in with your physician.

Severe cases can cause damage to the tissue in your fingers.

“If you see the blue color or the purple that is not going away after 20 minutes, not even 30 minutes, you have to go see a physician,” said Dr. Blom.

She said there are also a number of medications that can cause Raynaud’s as a side effect.

Examples of those include decongestants, blood pressure and migraine medicine and medications for ADHD.

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