Every workplace holds some risk of injury or illness. For workers who spend more time in the elements or operating machinery, these risks increase. With harsh environments and the use of powerful equipment come commonly known injuries like heat stroke, crushing, falling or abrasions. Yet, other lesser-known injuries can occur that go unreported and untreated simply because workers are unaware the injury is a result of their job function. One such injury is Raynaud’s Syndrome.
Raynaud’s Syndrome (RS) is a disorder that mostly affects the arteries of the fingers and the hands, though it can occur in the toes, ears and lips. Those who suffer from Raynaud’s experience episodes of vasospasm, in which the blood vessels narrow and reduce blood flow to the afflicted area. During an attack, the affected area can become numb and cold, with the skin paling into shades of yellow or white. In more severe cases, acute pain can occur, and the skin will turn blue or purple as oxygen to the area is cut off. As the vasospasm eases, the areas will begin to redden, and a sensation of burning, tingling or throbbing can occur. In addition, possible complications include tissue or muscle atrophy, skin sores and gangrene.
While the precise cause of Raynaud’s Syndrome is unknown, its development has been linked to underlying causes like various diseases or injury. RS has also been strongly correlated with certain occupations and work duties. In fact, Raynaud’s Syndrome has been classified among a group of workplace injuries called repetitive stress injuries. For instance, a clear link exists between the use of tools which vibrate or move, such as jackhammers or electric tools, and the development of RS. Even lower impact tasks like repetitive typing or hammering may result in attacks. Also, exposure to cooler temperatures, such as for those who work outdoors, with water, or in freezers, can increase a worker’s likelihood of developing RS. Workers exposed to chemicals like vinyl chloride and mercury also have a greater likelihood of developing the syndrome.
Though Raynaud’s Syndrome has no cure, treatments to prevent attacks generally revolve around avoiding triggering activities. For instance, workers should take frequent breaks or avoid altogether the activity linked to attacks. This is particularly recommended if affected hands make a worker unable to safely handle and operate equipment. As cold exacerbates RS, keeping affected body parts warm may also help. Medicines may be prescribed which improve blood flow to fingers and toes, like alpha blockers or calcium channel blockers.
Raynaud’s Syndrome not only can restrict a worker’s ability to perform his or her duties, it can also lead to costly medical bills. Unfortunately, proving that workplace conditions have led to Raynaud’s Syndrome can be difficult. For assistance, contact a Chicago workers compensation lawyer who can help protect your rights.
About the Author: Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyer that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit http://www.millonpeskin.com.