Conventional Medical Treatments for Raynaud’s Phenomenon
What is Raynaud’s phenomenon?
Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition in which blood flow to the small blood vessels in the fingers or toes is reduced in response to cold or stress. Although less common, blood vessels in other areas of the body, such as the nose, ears, or knees, can also be affected. During a Raynaud’s attack, affected areas typically feel cold, numb, and turn pale, white, or blue. As the blood vessels relax, the area may become red, swollen, or painful. Types of Raynaud’s phenomenon include primary Raynaud’s, which occurs independently of another medical condition, and secondary Raynaud’s, which occurs in conjunction with another health condition.
Conventional medical treatments
Conventional medical treatments for Raynaud’s phenomenon include medications to help manage the symptoms. Treatment depends on severity of symptoms. For severe cases, surgery is an option.
Medications can be prescribed to help manage the symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon. These include the following:
- Nitroglycerin skin ointment
Nitroglycerin ointment can be applied to the fingers to help heal skin ulcers.
- Calcium-channel blockers
Calcium-channel blockers help prevent attacks by relaxing small blood vessels in the body. They also help heal skin ulcers that can form on the fingers and toes.
Norepinephrine is a hormone that constricts the blood vessels. Alpha-blockers counteract this hormone, allowing the blood vessels to relax.
A sympathectomy is a surgery that involves blocking or cutting the nerves near the blood vessels that are affected by Raynaud’s phenomenon. This prevents Raynaud’s episodes by blocking the signal the nerves send to the blood vessels, telling them to contract. This surgery typically relieves symptoms for one to two years, but it is likely that it will need to be done again for continued symptom relief.
- Treatment for potential complications
In rare cases, severe, repeated attacks of Raynaud’s phenomenon can lead to skin infections and gangrene. This requires hospitalized treatment to improve blood flow and treat the infection. Surgery may be necessary to remove dead tissue.