Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation

Raynaud's Disease

Raynaud's Disease
First Published: Investigator - July 2004

Researchers at Flinders are hoping a drug used to treat mental illness could be a key to help control the symptoms of Raynauds Disease.

Professor Bill Blessing and Dr Stephen Hedger from the Departments of Medicine and Neurology are working on the theory that Olanzapine could help relieve the symptoms of Raynauds Disease - a painful and debilitating condition - and are working towards a clinical study to begin in 2005.

Dr Jack Walsh, from Vascular Surgery and Professor Peter Roberts-Thomson from Medicine, Immunology, Allergy and Arthritis will also contribute to the study.

Raynauds Disease is a condition in which some of the body’s blood vessels constrict, most commonly in the hands and toes, either apparently spontaneously or in response to cold or emotional stress. This severe constriction hinders blood flow and is distinguished by colour changes of the skin.

A typical episode of Raynauds Disease is the sudden onset of cold fingers, beginning in a single finger spreading to other digits and associated with white skin (white attack). This is followed by blue discolouration lasting 15 to 20 minutes then as the skin recovers it goes through a red phase. The whole process is very uncomfortable and painful.

There are two main forms of Raynauds Disease. The primary form is more common in women and displays a colour change in the hands. The secondary form is more severe.

Professor Blessing says the clinical study will mainly focus on patients with primary Raynauds Disease.

“Evidence based on careful physiological studies in animals suggests that Olanzapine, a drug already used to treat mental illness, interacts with brain neural pathways regulating the sympathetic nerves that control the blood vessels,” said Professor Blessing.

“Our research has shown that Olanzapine inhibits discharge of the sympathetic nerves, reversing the constriction of blood vessels and restoring the blood flow. We hope to begin a clinical study in 2005.”

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