Sunday, February 22, 2009

Researchers Test New Nitroglycerin Gel for Treatment of Raynaud's Phenomenon

Raynaud’s Phenomenon causes blood vessels in the outer extremities to constrict, disrupting blood flow and causing severe pain and numbness in the fingers, toes, nose, tongue, and ears.

Dr. Laura Hummers, a rheumatologist who serves on the faculty for the Scleroderma Center in the Division of Rheumatology at Johns Hopkins University, likens this condition to “a heart attack of the skin,” and this is a good analogy. Both conditions can cause extreme pain and discomfort due to a significantly reduced blood flow, and both can be eased with vasodilators (such as nitroglycerin) that increase blood flow by widening the blood vessels.

Now researchers at Johns Hopkins have developed a new nitroglycerin gel that Raynaud’s patients can apply directly to their affected areas. Unlike other topical nitroglycerin treatments, the gel stays put and is not absorbed through the skin. This is a significant advancement because nitroglycerin can cause nasty side effects, and the less of it that gets absorbed into the system, the better.

Dr. Hummer noted that the gel will be the first drug specifically studied and sent to the FDA for treatment of Raynaud's Phenomenon.

Although it is not yet on the market, early results of research using nitroglycerin gel to treat Raynaud’s are promising, indicating that the gel improved blood flow and lessened the severity of symptoms in study participants. Participants who received a placebo in place of the gel showed no improvement.

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