There are two types of digital artery conditions: Raynaud’s phenomenon and Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon. Patients with primary Raynaud’s phenomenon suffer impaired circulation in the fingers, usually in response to cold. In this condition, the fingers or toes will turn white, then blue, before turning red as they start to rewarm.
Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon is more severe, and is caused by other medical conditions.
As mentioned above, changes in color of the digits (fingers or toes) are the primary symptoms. They turn white because of decreased blood flow, leading to a lack of oxygen that turns the digits blue while adding a cold/numb or tingling sensation. As the blood vessels begin to open up again, the digits will throb, sometimes quite painfully, and turn red.
Patients with more severe digital artery conditions face even more problematic symptoms, including ulcers or sores, or gangrene.
Risk Factors for Digital Artery Conditions
While doctors still don’t know exactly why the blood vessels spasm in patients with Raynaud’s phenomenon, the prevalent thought is that it is related to nerves, including their increased sensitivity to cold, and/or abnormal nerve control of the blood vessels.
Secondary Reynaud’s phenomenon is caused by other medical conditions. These include:
It is not known what causes the blood vessels in the digits to spasm, although abnormal nerve control of the diameter of the blood vessel and nerve sensitivity to cold are suspected contributors.
Secondary Raynaud's phenomenon has been associated with a number of medical conditions, including:
- Connective tissue diseases
- Diseased arteries in the lungs leading to high blood pressure in that area
- Diseases that cause artery blockages
- Disorders of the blood
- Nervous system disorders
- Scleroderma, or hardening of the skin
- Taking certain medications
- Trauma or injury
Treating Digital Artery Conditions
Unfortunately, there is currently no known method for preventing the development of Reynaud’s phenomenon. However, there are several things patients can do to increase their comfort, such as:
- Covering hands and feet completely in cold weather
- Protecting digits from infection or injury
- Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke exposure
- Staying warm
- Taking medications that may be prescribed for symptoms initiating the condition
In more severe cases, patients are usually treated through medication and/or surgery.