Vascular disorders of the hand and wrist occur when the blood supply to the hands or fingers becomes compromised, a condition known generally as vascular insufficiency.
Hand- or wrist-related vascular disease is less common than problems with arteries and veins in the legs. However, vascular insufficiency can have long-lasting health effects. Abnormal conditions of the blood vessels in the hands or wrists can lead to severe disability.
What Are the Symptoms of Vascular Disorders?
As with most hand problems, symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the condition. However, vascular disorders of the hands and wrists are often characterized by the following:
- Numbness or tingling in the fingers or hand
- Skin coloration changes in the fingertips
- Sensitivity to cold temperatures
- Ulcers or wounds that do not heal
What Causes Vascular Disorders of the Hand and Wrist?
Vascular disease can develop in the hand or wrist for a number of reasons. Hand doctors typically categorize these disorders as traumatic, compressive or occlusive.
With traumatic disorders, the condition occurs due to an injury, such as a laceration, to either the radial or ulnar arteries. Compressive disorders occur when the blood vessels become kinked, twisted or flattened. If the blood flow is blocked, the condition is classified as occlusive.
Vascular insufficiency can also result from tumors, malformations or vessel spasms, conditions which may be present at birth or develop later in life.
People with chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney failure, face an increased risk of this disorder. In addition, cold temperatures, working with vibrating power tools and smoking can worsen the condition.
How Are Vascular Disorders Diagnosed?
Hand doctors use a variety of methods to diagnose vascular disease in the upper extremities.
A physical exam to check for visible signs of vascular insufficiency is the first step. If the hand doctor suspects blood circulation problems, an ultrasound or magnetic resonance angiography (a type of MRI that focuses on the blood vessels) may be ordered. Other diagnostic tests that can be helpful include a cold stress test, an arteriography and artery pressure and pulse recordings.
How Are Vascular Disorders Treated?
Treatment of vascular insufficiency depends on the cause and severity of the condition.
In some cases, nonsurgical measures — such as making lifestyle changes or taking medication to increase blood circulation — can be effective. For some patients, surgical treatment may be recommended. Hand surgery may involve repairing damaged blood vessels, removing artery blockages or performing an artery bypass.
If you’re experiencing any signs or symptoms associated with vascular insufficiency, schedule an appointment with Dr. J. Douglas Burrows at the Center of Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Excellence in West Valley City, Utah.
Dr. Burrows is one of northern Utah’s leading fellowship-trained, board-certified hand doctors, serving the greater Salt Lake City area for over 20 years. Diagnosing and treating upper extremity problems involving the bones, nerves, tendons and blood vessels is his specialty. For an evaluation for vascular disorders of the hand and wrist, contact our office today.