Raynauds syndrome is a problem with the circulatory system. It affects the blood supply to the skin and extremities, causing them to become numb and cold. During attacks of the disease, arteries and capillaries narrow, reducing the circulation to affected areas. These areas are usually the toes, fingers, ears and nose. Attacks may occur in response to exposure to cold or stress. While these responses are normal fight or flight responses, in Raynauds syndrome, the response is exaggerated.
Symptoms include a change in skin color; first pale, then to blue when cold and stressed, especially in the fingers. Toes may feel numb or prickly, and may feel like pins and needles when they begin to warm up and blood returns. There may also be a loss of sensory perception, mild swelling and redness with throbbing or tingling as the attack ends.
The causes for this syndrome are not completely understood. On command by the brain, the blood vessels seem to overreact to stress and temperature change. This is really an over-reaction to an event like, for instance, striking one's finger even lightly. The reaction of the brain is to cut off the blood supply in its entirety to the extremity involved, almost as if the affected finger has been severed. Raynauds syndrome can also develop as a complication of an underlying disorder, or more usually it develops on its own in the absence of any other health problem. Smoking seems to aggravate the condition, so if you can quit that is of benefit to the overall condition. Eat hot, hearty meals and stay warm and dry. Cold weather is particularly bad for the extremities.
Underlying causes may include scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, smoking, atherosclerosis and other arterial diseases, using beta blockers, and using certain chemotherapy medications. Raynaud's syndrome may cause slow healing, ulcers and possibly gangrene and amputation if left untreated. Consult your doctor if your symptoms cause you concern.