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Circulation. 1990 Nov;82(5):1607-15.

Sex differences in control of cutaneous blood flow.

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Division of Vascular Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston.


Women are far more likely than men to suffer from Raynaud's disease. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there are gender differences in local or central control of cutaneous blood flow that could account for the increased incidence of Raynaud's disease in women. To assess cutaneous blood flow, hand blood flow (HBF), finger blood flow (FBF), or skin perfusion (SP) was measured by fluid plethysmography, mercury strain-gauge plethysmography, or laser Doppler spectroscopy, respectively, in 47 volunteers. Basal HBF in men exceeded that of women (12.1 +/- 2.0 versus 6.2 +/- 1.5 ml/100 ml/min). Likewise, FBF in men surpassed that of women (19.5 +/- 4.1 versus 7.7 +/- 1.8 ml/100 ml/min). Similarly, SP in men was greater than that of women (270 +/- 42 versus 81 +/- 16 perfusion units). However, after total body warming (to induce a thermal sympatholysis), HBF in women exceeded that of men, suggesting that the lower basal HBF in women was due to increased sympathetic outflow to the extremities. Mental stress and deep inspiration reduced HBF and SP in men. Paradoxically, both of these maneuvers increased HBF and SP in women. To determine whether these paradoxical responses in women were due to the women's elevated basal sympathetic tone, these experiments were repeated after total body cooling in men to increase sympathetic tone and after total body warming in women to reduce sympathetic tone. Total body cooling reduced HBF and SP in men. Under these conditions, mental stress and deep inspiration induced vasodilation. In women, total body warming for 10 minutes increased HBF.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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