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Raynaud’s Disease and PAD: The Differences

There appears to be some confusion surrounding the definitions of Raynaud’s disease and peripheral artery disease, PAD. We’re here to correct that. Raynaud’s syndrome is characterized by a spasm of the arteries in the extremities, especially the fingers; but sometimes includes the toes, ears, lips or tip of the nose. Spasms are typically brought on by constant exposure to cold temperatures or emotional stress.

The Cold Hard Facts about Raynaud’s Disease

An estimated 28 million Americans suffer from Raynaud’s disease, a condition in which some areas (extremities) of the body feel numb and cold in certain circumstances. For instance, holding a very cold drink or reaching into the freezer.

Typically, the affected areas turn white, then blue, then bright red over the course of the attack. There may be associated numbing, tingling, swelling, or painful throbbing. The attacks can last from just a few minutes to several hours. In very severe cases, the area may develop ulcerations and infections and, if left untreated, can lead to gangrene.

For some reason, women are more likely to have this health problem, according to Raynauds.org. More specifically, women between the ages of 15 and 30 are most affected, especially those who live in colder climates further north in the U.S. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute identifies two types of Raynaud’s: Primary and secondary. The cause of primary Raynaud’s is not known. Secondary Raynaud’s is caused by an underlying health condition, such as those that attack the nerves associated with arteries in the hands and feet.

Beta blockers used to control high blood pressure can trigger secondary Raynaud’s syndrome, along with anti-migraine medications, decongestants and some birth control pills. On the other hand, some drugs may help alleviate secondary Raynaud’s, such as calcium channel blockers or alpha blockers to relax and open small blood vessels. Natural non-prescription pills, particularly vitamin B3 (niacin) can help increase flood flow and reduce the unpleasantness of Raynaud’s. As always, it is best to consult with a primary care physician to assess any medications and make adjustments as needed.

You can also help Raynaud’s disease by moving your hands and feet to increase blood flow, or rubbing the sore affected areas to help with circulation. Also, dipping hands and feet in warm water can provide some relief of the symptoms.

What’s Different about Peripheral Artery Disease?

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a narrowing of the arteries most commonly found in the lower regions—legs, calves, thighs, hips or buttocks. PAD pain symptoms include aching, cramping, numbing and weakness that occurs when biking, climbing stairs or walking. The discomfort goes away when you rest (intermittent claudication). Eventually the pain may be ever-present, which can limit everyday activities and adversely affect your quality of life.

PAD is a chronic disease in which plaque builds up due to atherosclerosis, making it difficult for blood to circulate through the arteries. PAD progression happens when blood flow in the arteries becomes completely blocked altogether. Serious blood clots can form when plaque breaks off and enters the bloodstream. “Blood clot” is a major red flag for concern in reference to your vascular health.

Peripheral artery disease has an unfortunate connection to Type 2 diabetes. The main cause of diabetes is high blood sugar that can reach the nerves and arteries. High blood sugar is bad for your body and can cause other serious health problems such as heart and kidney diseases as well as vision loss. Other diabetes causes or risk factors include:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Family history
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking

Because there is no defining cure, diabetes treatment and management with regards to PAD are options you should discuss with your specialist at Lam Vascular & Associates. Such as:

  • Developing a healthy eating and physical activity plan
  • Limiting alcohol use
  • Monitoring and controlling blood sugar
  • Screening tests for blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Stopping smoking
  • Taking suggested supplements, vitamins and foods rich in both, such as ALA (alpha-lipoic-acid) vitamins B1, B5, B6, B12 and vitamin D
  • Walking short distances (5-10 minutes) daily

Consult with Lam Vascular

At Lam Vascular & Associates, our goal with every patient is to alleviate pain. And to restore your quality of life. If you are experiencing leg pain or any of the more severe symptoms discussed here, ask for expert advice from one of our experienced vascular doctors. Schedule an initial appointment today with Lam Vascular & Associates, located in Dallas and Rockwall, Texas. We are here for your health!


The information contained in this article is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history and are not guaranteed in any way.

The information contained in this website is neither intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate or best care for any given health issue, nor is it intended to be used as a substitute for the independent judgment of a physician for any given health issue. Patient results will vary based on risk factors, age, disease and medical history. Please seek physician's advice. Like any procedure, it may come with benefits, risks or side effects associated. Click here for additional information.

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