A.G. Maurice Raynaud always wanted to work at a hospital in Paris. Although he obtained a medical degree in 1862 and his uncle was a well-known Parisian physician, Raynaud never achieved his dream of securing a hospital position. Instead, he lectured at universities. But one day he discovered a disorder affecting the blood vessels later named in his honor — Raynaud's syndrome, or Raynaud's phenomenon [source: Biography Center].
Raynaud's is characterized by blood vessels that constrict so tightly and rapidly, circulation is cut off. This usually happens when the person feels cold or stressed and the disorder cuts off circulation to the fingers, toes, ears and tip of the nose. Most people develop the condition when they are 15 to 25 years old, and women living in cold climates are particularly susceptible. It also appears to run in families. During an attack, the affected body part(s) often turn white and become numb. They may also turn blue, a sign of low circulation. As the area warms up and blood flow returns, the area may become crimson and tingle and throb [source: NIAMSD].
Most people self-diagnose Raynaud's and don't seek treatment. To thwart or limit attacks they keep their hands and feet warm and dry, avoid air conditioning, wear gloves when touching frozen items and use chemical hand- or foot-warmers in boots and mittens. But in severe cases (secondary Raynaud's), which often occurs in people with other conditions such as lupus or scleroderma, the disease is so severe it causes ulcers, and may even result in amputation. In extreme cases, people may take medications to improve blood flow to the fingers and toes. An estimated 28 million Americans have Raynaud's [sources: NIAMSD, Raynaud's Association, National Institutes of Health].