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Raynaud's phenomenon can be a serious health issue, as the blood flow to the extremities, mainly the fingers is compromised, causing fingers to blanche, and then turn blue. Severe Raynaud's can cause gangrene in illnesses like progressive/ diffuse scleroderma.

I am not asking about connective tissue disease per se, but what occurs during an actual Raynaud event (for a better way of putting it), not what precipitates the condition to occur within a particular person and not another.

what are the underlying biological processes that cause the blood flow to be compromised like this?

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^^^ please note the tag of neuroscience, this condition involves the autonomic nervous system. –  user4693 Nov 5 '13 at 16:06
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It is due to vasospasms that lead to constriction. –  biogirl Nov 5 '13 at 16:11
    
@biogirl care to provide an answer?? :) –  user4693 Nov 6 '13 at 1:05
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1 Answer 1

The Raynaud phenomenon is a recurrent vasospasm that is associated with cold temperatures and emotional stress [1]. Excessive vasoconstriction leads to hypoxia. The cause of vasoconstriction is a hyperactivation of the sympathetic nervous system [2] and probably the lack of parasympathetic response. The mechanism is thought to involve both central neural issues and peripheral impairment (subclinical polyneuropathy) [3]. The resulted chronic hypoxia leads to pain, atrophy and sometimes even ulceration [2].


References:

  1. Bakst R, Merola JF, Franks AG, Sanchez M. Raynaud's phenomenon: pathogenesis and management. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2008 Oct;59(4):633-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2008.06.004. PubMed PMID: 18656283.

  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Raynaud's phenomenon," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Raynaud%27s_phenomenon&oldid=613954124 (accessed June 27, 2014).

  3. Koszewicz M, Gosk-Bierska I, Jerzy G, Bilińska M, Podemski R, Budrewicz S, Adamiec R. Peripheral nerve changes assessed by conduction velocity distribution in patients with primary Raynaud's phenomenon and dysautonomia. Int Angiol. 2011 Aug;30(4):375-9. PubMed PMID: 21747356.

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