As a result of reduced blood flow, the skin may turn from normal-colored to white to blue to red. Sensory symptoms may be absent, or where present, may range from mild numbness and tingling to severe pain. In the most severe cases, skin ulcerations, infections, and permanent tissue loss may occur Figure 01 Figure 02. In the early stages of RP, the affected areas will become pale and cold as circulation diminishes. If the blood flow does not return, the affected areas turn blue and become increasingly painful as the tissue becomes oxygen-poor. Acute attacks can last from seconds to hours. As the arteries relax and blood flow is reestablished, throbbing pain and redness may occur. Individual patients may experience some or all of these changes.
With severe or repeated attacks, skin ulcerations may develop. If left untreated, the ulcers may become infected and may lead to permanent tissue damage and loss.
Figure 01. Fingertip ulcers
Figure 02. White fingertips
Young women between 15 to 40 years of age are at particular risk for developing Raynaud's phenomenon. The disease often begins in the teenage years. Many cases of Raynaud's phenomenon develop initially in women of childbearing age. The reasons for this predisposition are not known.
People whose fingers are exposed to repeated traumatic stress may be more vulnerable to RP. People who experience repeated trauma to the fingers (such as typists, pianists, or jackhammer operators) appear to have a greater risk for developing RP. People with previous histories of frostbite are also at increased risk.
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