Complications of Raynaud's  

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

Scleroderma

Around 1 in 16 woman and 1 in 50 men with Raynaud’s 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, known as dysphagia
  • diarrhoea, bloating or constipation

There's 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, 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 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 normally require admission to hospital, where you'll be given medication designed to thin your blood, which should help to restore blood flow.

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


Page last reviewed: 03/03/2015

Next review due: 03/03/2017