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The fingers in scleroderma

raynauds fingersThe fingers can be affected in several different ways in people with systemic sclerosis (systemic scleroderma). This information describes three common problems, which can occur separately or together - Raynaud's phenomenon, finger ulcers, and calcinosis, all of which can be very troublesome. In addition, other finger problems can occur in systemic sclerosis. For example, thickening of the skin can lead to what are termed 'contractures' when the fingers become bent and are unable to straighten fully, interfering with the function of the hand.
 
Raynaud's phenomenon
Most people with systemic sclerosis experience Raynaud's phenomenon, which means the fingers change colour in response to cold or to emotional stress. Raynaud's is caused by poor blood supply to the fingers due to narrow-ing of the blood vessels. Classically the fingers turn white, then blue, and then red, although many people do not experience all three colour changes. The red phase, when the fingers are rewarming, is often the most painful and can be associated with a tingling feeling. The toes may also be affected.
 
How do we test for Raynaud's phenomenon?
Raynaud's is a clinical diagnosis. In other words, your doctor will make the diagnosis on the basis of what you tell him/her, and what he/she finds on examination. In addition, your doctor may arrange some tests. Examples of these are a blood test to check for certain proteins called antibodies, and a test called nailfold microscopy when the edge of your finger-nail is examined under the microscope. This test is not painful and allows small blood vessels called capillaries to be visualised. Another test called thermography involves putting your hands in front of a thermal imaging camera and watching how quickly they rewarm after being cooled down.
 

If you would like more information on the fingers in scleroderma including treatment options and finger exercises click on the image to download our Information Sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 


To find out about the effects that scleroderma can have to your feet click here.

 

 

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