White fingers: harmless symptom or indication of serious illnesses?

White fingers: harmless symptom or indication of serious illnesses?

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Raynaud syndrome: simple examinations provide information about the risk
During the cold season, some people show strikingly pale fingers and toes. They suffer from the so-called Raynaud syndrome (also white finger phenomenon or Raynaud's disease), a circulatory disorder that is "completely harmless" in most cases, reports the MedUni Vienna. But there could also be a serious illness behind the complaints. A simple examination can be used to estimate “not only the risk of another illness, but also a reduced life expectancy,” according to the MedUni Vienna.

With Raynaud's syndrome, white and very cold hands or fingers are a conspicuous consequence of existing circulatory disorders. Although these are "completely harmless in 90 percent of all cases", the MedUni Vienna warns that in rare cases there may be another illness behind it. A research group at the university has found in recent studies that relatively simple studies are sufficient for risk assessment. This makes it possible to estimate which patients benefit from regular visits to the doctor.

Two investigation methods for risk assessment
As a rule, the white fingers and toes in Raynaud's disease are triggered by cold or stress, and when heated, they disappear on their own. However, about ten percent of those affected hide an illness behind the symptom, reports the MedUni Vienna. This could be, for example, “autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, tumors or side effects of medication.” The cause of the complaints can be determined - in addition to the medical history - by two effective examination methods. “On the one hand, the capillaries of the nail fold are examined using capillary microscopy. And on the other hand, a blood test checks whether, for example, autoantibodies attack your own organism, ”reports the MedUni Vienna.

Capillaries and antibodies provide information
The MedUni Vienna research group headed by study leaders Oliver Schlager and Michael Gschwandtner from the clinical departments for angiology evaluated the data from a total of 2,958 patients from 1994 to 2008 in order to determine the significance of the diagnosis of capillary abnormalities and the detection of Have autoantibodies in those with white finger phenomenon in relation to life expectancy. "It was found that women who were diagnosed with these examinations were less likely to survive," reports the MedUni Vienna. With evidence of capillary abnormalities and autoantibodies, the life expectancy of women was statistically the shortest. "Life expectancy in men - regardless of capillaries and antibodies - was reduced," said the university. However, the results are no cause for alarm, emphasizes study director Oliver Schlager. "The statistical analysis only shows that those affected by these abnormalities should undergo check-ups more frequently than usual," Schlager continued. (fp)

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