In 15 women with PR (primary Raynaud's) disease and in 15 matched control women, ACh (acetylcholine) was delivered by iontophoresis to the dorsum of the finger (seven 20 s pulses of 0.1 mA, followed by one 20 s pulse of 0.2 mA, applied at 60 s intervals). Cutaneous RCF (red cell flux) was recorded from the same site by the laser Doppler technique. ACh evoked progressive increases in RCF that were comparable in pre- and post-menopausal women with PR [maxima of 294±113 and 259±59 pu (perfusion units) respectively, n=7 and 8 respectively], and in pre-menopausal controls (225±92 pu, n=7), but smaller in post-menopausal controls (140±63 pu, n=8; P<0.05). Aspirin (600 mg, orally), a COX (cyclo-oxygenase) inhibitor, potentiated the ACh-evoked dilator responses in pre- and post-menopausal women with PR (343±129 and 311±48 pu respectively) and post-menopausal controls (277±124 pu; P<0.05), but had no effect in pre-menopausal controls (225±92 pu). These results suggest that vasoconstrictor COX products limit ACh-evoked endothelium-dependent cutaneous dilatation in the digits in pre- and post-menopausal women with PR and in post-menopausal, but not pre-menopausal, control women. We propose that PR disease is associated with abnormality in the ability of oestrogen to modulate the synthesis of endothelium-dependent vasodilator and/or vasoconstrictor COX products.

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