Raynaud's phenomenon - Complications 

Complications of Raynaud's  

People with Raynaud's phenomenon have an increased risk of developing other problems, such as scleroderma.

Scleroderma

Around one in 16 woman and one in 50 men with Raynaud’s will develop a condition called scleroderma, usually between the ages of 25 and 55.

Scleroderma is when the body produces excessively high levels of collagen.

Scleroderma is a Greek word meaning hard skin, but it can affect other areas of the body such as the kidneys, heart and lungs.

Symptoms of scleroderma include:

  • puffy and itchy skin
  • tight and uncomfortable joints
  • small calcium spots and red spots under the skin
  • trouble swallowing, which is known as dysphagia
  • diarrhoea, bloating or constipation

There is no cure for scleroderma, but there are ways of overcoming problems it may cause.

For example, medicines can reverse or slow down the processes that cause damage around the body.

For more information, visit the website of the Scleroderma Society, which is a UK charity for people affected by scleroderma.

Ulcers and gangrene

In severe cases of Raynaud’s, the blood supply to an affected body part can become severely diminished. Without a constant supply of blood, the tissue in the body part will begin to die. This problem is rare and normally only occurs in secondary Raynaud's.

The initial sign is an open sore, known as an ulcer, which develops on the surface of the body part. If you suspect you have a skin ulcer, contact your GP for advice.

Left untreated, the tissue can die, which is known as gangrene (specifically, dry gangrene).

The symptoms of dry gangrene normally begin with a red line on the skin that marks the edges of the affected tissue. The tissue becomes cold and numb and can be painful as the tissue dies. However, many people, particularly the elderly, experience no sensations.

The affected area changes colour from red, to brown, to black. The dead tissue will then shrivel up, separate from the healthy tissue and fall off.

These complications will normally require admission to hospital where you will be given medication designed to thin your blood, which should help restore blood flow.

If you fail to respond to treatment you may need surgery to unblock or repair damaged blood vessels.


Page last reviewed: 11/01/2013

Next review due: 11/01/2015

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The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Yuwaye Shuto said on 31 March 2012

my doctor of six yrs when i met her instantly said i had secondary raynaud's bcause she's seen it before but other doc here argue that i don't....she argues my case for me so i can get the med's i need.... i hate that they do this can't they see i already suffer enough in my life....it's very cold here so i don't get a big social life

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SweetChili said on 11 March 2010

I am seeing a Rheumatologist who says she thinks I have 'systemic scleroderma', I'm in a lot of pain constantly and having a huge amount of symptoms! but, my gastro doctor and my chest doctor both say they don't agree! I think there is a lack of information for these docs about the illness! my Rheuma is an expert on this condition! shouldn't doctors work as a team? instead of working against each other? the communication between doctors is very poor and should be addressed in my opinion!

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