Lupus is one of numerous conditions known to cause a type of Raynaud’s phenomenon known as secondary Raynaud’s, a condition that restricts blood flow to the fingers and toes.
Lupus is a disease that affects about
Your immune system is in charge of keeping your body healthy by fighting off diseases and infections from bacteria, viruses, and parasites. When you have an autoimmune condition like lupus, your immune system doesn’t work correctly and starts attacking healthy tissues in your body.
Raynaud’s phenomenon — sometimes called Raynaud’s disease, Raynaud’s syndrome, or simply Raynaud’s — is a condition that restricts blood flow in your extremities due to narrowing blood vessels.
In extreme cases, it can lead to complete blood vessel blockage, known as occlusion. This can lead to tissue damage in the extremities. Raynaud’s phenomenon can be either primary or secondary.
Primary Raynaud’s phenomenon has no known cause. Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon is caused by an underlying health condition or an environmental factor. Lupus is one such condition that can cause secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Let’s take a closer look at how these two conditions are related.
Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon can have many causes.
Some medications can cause secondary Raynaud’s. These include some used to treat:
It can also be caused by certain environmental factors, such as:
- exposure to vibrational tools, such as powered hand tools and pneumatic hammers
- exposure to polyvinyl chloride
- injuries from cold environments, such as hypothermia and frostbite
Diseases that can precede Raynaud’s phenomenon include:
Raynaud’s phenomenon restricts your blood vessels in the affected parts of your body, reducing blood flow.
If you have lupus, your immune system causes inflammation in various tissues.
Raynaud’s phenomenon has many causes, some of which are unknown, especially when it comes to its various triggers.
Whatever the the cause of Raynaud’s, the symptoms will be very similar. This is because the causes of Raynaud’s phenomenon, including lupus, are different starting points that lead to the same condition.
Raynaud’s phenomenon typically affects your extremities, most often your fingers or toes. Though less common, you might experience symptoms on your:
The most common symptom of Raynaud’s phenomenon is the affected area turning pale from lack of blood flow or blue from lack of oxygen.
The symptoms could last seconds to minutes. The affected area might also feel cold to the touch.
Circulation resumes at the end of each episode, causing:
Raynaud’s phenomenon doesn’t usually lead to complications, but it can in severe cases.
Complications from Raynaud’s phenomenon arise from lengthy periods of time without blood flow to part of your body. All tissues in your body need oxygen to survive, and prolonged circulation issues can cause your cells to die.
This can lead to the development of sores, especially on the ends of your fingers and toes. These sores will be painful to the touch.
A diagnosis of lupus-related Raynaud’s phenomenon will first require a diagnosis of lupus. It’s possible that might you have lupus and your first symptom is Raynaud’s phenomenon, in which case both conditions are likely to be diagnosed at the same time.
To diagnose Raynaud’s phenomenon, a doctor will start by asking about your medical history and doing an exam.
The symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon are brought on by cold temperatures and emotional stress. They often start in one finger or toe and then proceed to the next. This can happen symmetrically on both sides of your body. The thumbs are typically only affected in secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Raynaud’s occurs most often in people in their teens and 20s, though it can happen at any age. It’s nine times more likely to develop in women than men.
Treatment for Raynaud’s phenomenon usually centers on avoiding the triggers — such as cold temperatures and emotional stress — and treating the symptoms.
Wearing cold weather clothing like coats, hats, and warm socks is recommended when you expect to be in a cold environment. Mittens are preferred over gloves, but both can help keep your fingers warm.
Avoid rapid changes in temperature if possible. You can run warm water over your hands or other affected areas to help address an episode.
Avoiding other triggers, such as smoking or using vibrating hand tools, can help reduce the frequency of episodes.
If your symptoms are affecting your day-to-day activities, speak with your doctor. In some cases, calcium channel blockers like amlodipine or blood pressure medications like nifedipine might be prescribed to help prevent episodes.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition that causes intermittent decreased blood flow to parts of your body. This affects the fingers and toes, but it could affect other extremities as well.
Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon is directly caused by other environmental factors and health conditions, one of which is lupus. The inflammation associated with lupus causes blood vessels to constrict, leading to Raynaud’s.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is not usually serious, and treatments include getting warm and avoiding triggers.