A change in the color of the skin of the fingers, ears or nose due to the cold can be a sign of an autoimmune rheumatic disease. It is the so-called Raynaud’s effect or disease that is analyzed by the experts of the “Health and Prevention” blog.
Capillaroscopy test to detect autoimmune rheumatological diseases. Photo provided by Quirónsalud
With the arrival of the cold, some rheumatic diseases appear for the first time or worsen. One of the manifestations is a change in skin color, the so-called phenomenon or Raynaud’s disease, which is often associated, or can even be a first symptom, to the development of autoimmune pathologies, such as Sjörgen’s syndrome , scleroderma, lupus, dermatomyositis or rheumatoid arthritis, among others.
“The importance of Raynaud’s disease lies in the fact that it can be the first manifestation of some serious pathologies such as scleroderma or others that belong to the group of so-called ‘systemic autoimmune diseases’,” says the Dr. Manuel Romero, Head of Rheumatology at Quirónsalud Córdoba Hospital.
It is an acute episode of spasm of the small blood vessels in the distal regions of the body, such as the fingers and toes, or which can happen in the nose and ears, he explains.
“This is usually triggered after exposure to cold or stress, as well as other emotions, and is manifested by changes in the coloring of the affected areas,” he adds.
This pathology evolves in three phases, as specified by this expert, and the first consists of skin pallor due to vasospasm, which is followed by a bluish due to tissue asphyxiation and finally a phase of skin flushingfor the arrival of new blood in the tissues.
It can be confused with penellons
According to this rheumatologist, it is characteristic that, in addition to the color change, the affected area is accompanied by pain and itching, and it can be confused with pimples.
Therefore, points out Dr. Romero, and given that these symptoms may or may not be associated with a rheumatic disease, it is important to rule it out.
However, he celebrates that this is why it can currently be done capillaroscopy testsuitable for this type of situation, in order to establish an early diagnosis.
“Through capillaroscopy, it is possible to establish a rapid diagnosis of diseases that occur with a change in skin color, which is essential to minimize the damage and improve the patient’s prognosis. It’s a study technique that allows the skin microcirculation to be analyzed in real time”, explains Dr. Romero.
A painless test for Raynaud’s disease
In his opinion, this technique represents a “key test” and “very valuable” when diagnosing rheumatic diseases associated with Raynaud’s phenomenon, and moreover “quickly and accurately”, through the observation of the capillary bed examination of the patient’s hands through a kind of microscope.
Dr. Romero maintains specifically that it is a non-invasive test, painless for patients and whose mission focuses on studying the distal periungual capillaries to assess the venous microcirculation.
For his part, the Doctor Juan Pablo Baldiviesoresponsible for the specialized consultation in systemic autoimmune diseases of the Rheumatology service of the Hospital Quirónsalud Córdobahighlights that capillaroscopy is a “simple and comfortable test, an accessible method for the patient”, which can be performed in the Rheumatology consultation itself, given that the affected areas of the affected person are observed through a kind of microscope, in charge of looking for the mentioned vascular anomalies.
Among other advantages, he also emphasizes that capillaroscopy is not only useful in the diagnosis of these diseases in adults, he adds, but can also be used in the case of children.
“It serves to observe the capillary bed of the patient’s hands, being able to differentiate whether the symptoms are associated with a rheumatic disease or not. The advantage of this test is that it allows, in addition to early diagnosis, periodic follow-up to assess the patient’s evolution”, this rheumatologist points out.
Early diagnosis is the key
Dr. Baldivieso also emphasizes that establishing a correct diagnosis in rheumatic diseases is essential because, depending on the disease, and whether the cause is discovered, the success of the treatments will be greater or lesser, more effective if the disease is diagnosed in its early stages.
When dealing with Raynaud’s phenomenon or disease, the doctor assures that the means to prevent and protect us from the cold are very important, as well as those measures that can be used to take care of our skin, apart of course of taking those medicines that have been prescribed by a specialist in the field, in this case a rheumatologist.