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Vasospastic Disorder

Vasospastic disorders — including Raynaud’s syndrome — affect the small blood vessels near the surface of the skin, limiting blood flow.

At the UPMC Division of Vascular Surgery, we take a team approach to quickly and correctly diagnose vasospastic disorders. We'll then design a treatment plan just for you.

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What Is a Vasospastic Disorder?

Vasospastic disorders are conditions where small blood vessels near the surface of the skin have spasms that limit blood flow.

Your doctor may call this vasoconstriction. In most cases, it's temporary.

A common vasospastic disorder is Raynaud's syndrome, which affects the hands and feet, making them feel cold.

Vasospastic disorder risk factors and causes

Anyone can get a vasospastic disorder.

Sometimes, it's only temporary and doesn't cause permanent damage.

Other times, a vasospastic disorder may suggest another underlying condition in the vascular system.

  • Primary Raynaud's syndrome is more common in women than in men.
  • Secondary Raynaud's is more common in men and often points to another disorder.

Vasospastic disorder causes

The spasms that cause vasoconstriction are often temporary, although they may occur frequently.

Sometimes certain drugs can cause the condition, including beta-blockers and estrogen therapy.

Other conditions that may underlie vasospastic disorders include:

Vasospastic disorder complications

In Raynaud's syndrome, your fingers and toes may feel abnormally cold or numb. They also may turn blue, red, or white.

Other vasospastic disorders include:

  • Chronic pernio, in which people who have had damage to their limbs from extreme cold still feel symptoms.
  • Livedo reticularis, which is a bluing of the skin.

Vasospastic Disorder Symptoms and Diagnosis

Vasospastic disorders are mostly temporary. Your skin may change color and become numb, but permanent damage is rare.

Vasospastic disorder symptoms

Symptoms of a vasospastic disorder include:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Temporary skin discoloration
  • Tingling and numbness

In more serious conditions that have caused vasospastic disorders, blood clots may form in the arteries. Blood clots may need further treatment.

Vasospastic disorder diagnosis

Your doctor will examine you and ask about the frequency, severity, and length of your symptoms.

He or she may order tests such as:

  • Ultrasound imaging
  • CT scan
  • Angiography
  • Blood tests

Vasospastic Disorder Treatment

Depending on your condition, vasospastic disorder treatment may include lifestyle changes such as:

  • Quitting smoking.
  • Avoiding caffeine.
  • Lowering stress.
  • Avoiding cold objects.
  • Dressing warmly in cold temperatures (wearing gloves or mittens).
  • Avoiding tools that will vibrate your hands.
  • Taking drugs that dilate the blood vessels.

If your vasospastic disorder is a symptom of another vascular system problem, your doctor may suggest further treatment.