Nail & Skin Disorders

Under the Microscope: Raynaud’s Syndrome

Raynaud’s Syndrome is a constriction of the blood vessels brought on by cold or stress that causes a discoloration of the fingers and toes.

What is it? Also called Raynaud’s Phenomenon or Raynaud’s Disease, Raynaud’s Syndrome is a medical condition that causes blood vessels to spasm, blocking blood flow to parts of the body and causing a dramatic change in the color of the skin. The discoloration often comes in what is known as a “three-phase sequence,” which means the skin turns from white to blue to red. First, the blood vessels spasm and reduce the flow of blood, turning the affected area white. After a period without oxygen, the area begins to turn blue. Finally, the spasm stops and the blood vessels reopen. Blood rushes to the area, turning it red. The cycle can be quite painful to sufferers, an estimated 3%-5% of the population.

Photo reprinted with permission from the International Scleroderma Network at www.sclero.org.
<p>Photo reprinted with permission from the International Scleroderma Network at www.sclero.org.</p>

How do you get it? Most of the time a change in the weather triggers Raynaud’s, however stress has also been noted as a factor. There are two types of Raynaud’s: primary and secondary. Primary Raynaud’s is a stand-alone phenomenon that isn’t related to any other medical problem. Secondary Raynaud’s is caused by a larger health problem, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

How is it treated? With little known about the cause, treatment remains a personalized trial-and-error approach. The Raynaud’s Association recommends taking proactive steps to prevent spasms, including stopping smoking and dressing in layers. When a person feels an episode coming on despite these preventative measures, she should swing her arms around in circles to keep the blood circulating or rub her hands together under warm water.

What can a tech do? In those rare cases when complications from secondary Raynaud’s create problems such as skin sores or ulcers, techs should avoid performing any nail services without a doctor’s release. Barring any complications, though, manicures, pedicures, and enhancements pose no threat to clients with Raynaud’s. For clients with Raynaud’s, take these simple precautions: Keep an air temperature of about 72° or encourage clients to bring a warm sweater. Make sure the water in a foot bath or manicure soak doesn’t get too cool or too hot. Be aware that the whirlpool effect itself might induce an attack of Raynaud’s in the feet in some clients. Take special care to keep the hands and feet warm once they’ve been removed from a soak. Wrap the hands or feet in warm towels and allow enough room for the client to move her hands and feet if necessary to keep the circulation steady. Finally, ask the client if she would like to have her hands or feet wrapped in a dry towel to keep them warm while she waits for her polish to dry.    

What else? Though doctors know what is happening — the blood vessels spasm and prohibit proper blood flow — they don’t know why it happens. They do know that women are more likely to develop Raynaud’s than men, and most often, it is diagnosed between the ages of 20-40. Though very little is known as to the cause of Raynaud’s, there are links that doctors acknowledge. For example, some occupations that require the use of vibrating, hand-held machinery cause nerve damage that results in Raynaud’s. (Don’t get nervous; we’re talking jackhammers, not electric files.) Some people with migraines also suffer from Raynaud’s, but why there is a link remains uncertain.

 

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