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What is Raynaud’s?

Raynaud’s is a disorder of the blood vessels, generally in the fingers and toes.

Raynaud’s disease causes smaller arteries that supply blood flows to the skin to narrow in response to cold or stress.

When you are exposed to cold (e.g., cold weather, holding a glass of an iced drink), or in some individuals, emotional stress, the vessels narrow, keeping the blood from getting to the surface of the skin.

Raynaud disease is often associated with cold temperatures or shivering skin.

Typically, Raynaud’s syndrome causes narrow vascular walls that limit circulation in the affected areas of your body (vasospasm) to affected body part such a s fingers and toes.

The incidence of Raynaud’s disease is greater among women.

It’s more widespread for those in colder weathers.

The diagnosis of Raynaud’s disease varies depending upon how severe it is and if there is another medical condition that can occur.

Raynaud’s phenomenon is often associated with an imbalance of cellular and organ blood supply and is most commonly affected by toes and fingers.

The disease is commonly called Raynaud’s disease, or simply Raynauds’.

Raynaud disease is usually not fatal, but can have a detrimental impact on your health.


Raynaud disease is often associated with cold or shivering skin.

The diagnosis of Raynaud’s disease varies depending upon how severe it is and if there is another medical condition that can occur.

Raynaud disease is usually not fatal, but can have a detrimental impact on your health.


Doctors do not know why Raynaud was attacked on the hands and feet appear to react to cold weather, temperature and pressure.

Why does it happen?

Raynaud’s symptoms typically occur during cold temperatures, anxiety, or stressful conditions.

This happens when blood flows in your small blood vessels causing spasm.

When blood flows get restricted, the affected area changes from white to blue.

It may also feel like you feel an irritation.

Raynaud symptoms usually last several hours.

The fingers can be very painful.

People with Raynauds often go without symptoms or even completely eliminate them.

Causes of Raynaud’s phenomenon

It occurs because of a hypersensitive blood vessel in the extremities.

Often, the problem can be identified, although it has been linked with other health issues.

When your body is exposed to warm air it can cause your thighs or feet to lose heat.

This is because tiny blood vessel under skin can spasm, which reduces blood flows, which helps maintain body temperature.

Those affected by raynauds have sensitive blood cells that overreact to warmer temperatures becoming narrower, severely restricting flow.

What is Raynaud’s phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a problem that causes decreased blood flow to the fingers.

In some cases, it also causes less blood flows to the ears, toes, nipples, knees

Raynaud’s disease is when your fingers and toes temporarily overreact to low temperatures or stress

When Raynaud’s is due to a disease, it often happens in people with a connective tissue disease.

Certain medications including beta blockers used to treat high blood pressure, migraine medications containing ergotamine or sumatriptan, medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, certain chemotherapy drugs and other drugs that cause blood vessels to narrow have also been linked to Raynaud’s.

Who gets Raynaud’s?

Women are more likely than men to have Raynaud’s disease, also known as Raynaud’s or Raynaud’s phenomenon or syndrome.

Raynaud’s phenomena are largely common problems.

The disease has an incidence of about 20% in adults.

In Britain there are estimated to be 10 million cases of this condition.

Increase risk of Raynaud’s is associated with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Diseases of the arteries.

These include a buildup of plaques in blood vessel that feed the heart, a disorder in which the vessels of the hands and feet become inflamed, and a type of high blood pressure that affects the arteries of the lungs.

Types of Raynaud’s

The first step towards understanding Raynaud’s is finding out which type you have: primary or secondary. Primary Raynaud’s is typically referred to as “Raynaud’s Disease” and it occurs on its own, for no known reason. While it can be frustrating, it’s generally less severe than secondary Raynaud’s. “It is due to an increased or elevated vascular response to a stimuli. Although it can occur in both sexes it is more common in women,”

Primary raynaud’s usually begin in the 20 to 30 year range.

Secondary raynauds are possible at any age, depending upon their source. Raynauds disease is generally found in men.

1 in 3 people with primary Raynaud’s suffer from secondary Raynaud’s, including Lupus.

Your doctor can diagnose Raynauds primary or secondary through examination and blood testing of your symptoms.

Primary Raynaud’s

Primary Raynaud’s phenomenon occurs in patients who do not have another rheumatic disease

This is the most common form.

With primary Raynaud’s phenomenon don’t need to seek treatment. And it can resolve on its own.

Primary Raynaud’s phenomenon are likely due to changes to how the nervous system controls the blood flows.

The reasons behind this disturbance are uncertain.

It appears likely Raynaud is an inherited disorder.

Secondary Raynaud’s

When there is another disease associated with Raynaud’s, it is called Secondary Raynaud’s – “secondary” to another condition.

Secondary occurs from an underlying cause, like disease, injury, or certain medications. It’s usually diagnosed in people between ages 35 and 40.

Many times, this type of Raynaud’s is called “Raynaud’s Phenomenon.”

These conditions are numerous and can include several autoimmune conditions.

The most common rheumatic diseases associated with Raynaud’s include scleroderma and systemic lupus erythematosus, but can include others such as rheumatoid arthritis, myositis, thyroid dysfunction, and Sjogren’s.

The majority of secondary Raynauds cases are caused by disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissue (autoimmune diseases).

Sometimes underlying medical issues can cause vessels to overreact.

Other conditions that can cause secondary Raynaud’s include carpal tunnel syndrome , which affects nerves in the wrists, and certain diseases of the arteries, which causes narrowing of the blood vessel in the arms and legs.

Certain blood pressure, migraine, cancer medications, birth control pills, and over-the-counter cold medications, can all be the culprit.

Although secondary Raynaud’s is less common than the primary form, it tends to be more serious.

Signs and symptoms of secondary Raynaud’s usually appear around age 40, later than they do for primary Raynaud’s.

Causes of secondary Raynaud’s include: Connective tissue diseases. Most people who have a rare disease that leads to hardening and scarring of the skin (scleroderma) have Raynaud’s.

Who gets Raynaud’s?

Women are more likely than men to have Raynaud’s disease.

It appears to be more common in people who live in colder climates.

The disease has an incidence of about 20% in adults.

Primary raynauds usually begin in the 20 to 30 year range.

Secondary raynaud’s are possible at any age, depending upon their source.


Smokers also have an increased risk of Raynaud’s —As well as heart attack, stroke, and lung cancer.


Symptoms of Raynaud’s disease.

It can be associated with discomfort or a “pins and needles” sensation. It is due to the small blood vessel in the fingers that “spasm”, thus decreasing blood flow to the fingertips.

When we are exposed to the cold, a normal response is for the blood vessel, including affected body parts especially those in the fingers and toes, to become narrower, or constrict.

When someone has Raynaud’s, this constriction of the blood vessels is more extreme, which can be very uncomfortable and may result in the skin changing color, from white to blue and then to red.

As the body temperature rises and blood flow returns, the affected area can become red and throbbing.

Although Raynaud can affect most of your hands and toes, the disease also affects your nipples, lips and brows.

Once your body warms up, normal blood flow can last 15 minutes.

Raynaud’s phenomenon is caused by overly-sensitive blood vessels within the fingers and toes.

They are more affected by cold temperatures and stress.

The vessels narrow substantially, causing a decrease in blood flow and associated color change.

The lack of blood flow often results in a pale, or white, discoloration.

Subsequently, the digits can turn blue and eventually red as there is a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Carpal tunnel syndrome.

This condition involves pressure on a major nerve to your hand, producing numbness and pain in the hand that can make the hand more susceptible to cold temperatures.

Repetitive action or vibration.

  • Typing,
  • playing piano or doing similar movements for long periods
  • operating vibrating tools, such as jackhammers,

Can lead to overuse injuries.

Raynaud’s attack

Raynaud’s phenomenon occurs when the small blood vessel within the body’s extremities, such as the fingers and toes, are over-sensitive.

This oversensitivity causes a more extreme reaction in response to certain triggers, such as cold weather. This is known as a Raynaud’s attack.

How is Raynaud’s diagnosed?

The Rheumatologist’s Role in the Treatment of Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Raynaud’s Phenomenon is often diagnosed by a rheumatologist, who further can decide whether the Raynaud’s is primary or secondary raynaud’s .

Rheumatologists are doctors who are experts in diagnosing and treating arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bones. Thus, they are best qualified to make a proper diagnosis.

Raynaud phenomenon is generally identified by examining your symptoms and a few blood tests.

Your doctor can place the palm in cold water to see the symptoms of Raynaud.

Often more tests are recommended to find the cause.

Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon

Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon require additional care and sometimes referral from the physician.

Secondary raynaud’s phenomenon is suspected if your doctor will look into tiny blood vessels that connect your nails to the fingers.

This capillary can be large for patients with secondary raynaud’s and appear as red penmarks.

The diagnostic process starts with a medical history and a physical exam.

Your healthcare provider may give you a cold challenge test.

This is done to see the color changes in the hands and fingers.

During the test, your hands are exposed to cold.

Your healthcare provider may also look at the tiny blood vessels in your fingernails with a microscope.

Adults who start to have Raynaud’s phenomenon after age 35 may be tested for an underlying disease.

You may have blood tests to see if your condition is primary or secondary.

The doctor will then examine the nailfold under a microscope or a hand-held ophthalmoscope to look for abnormalities of the capillaries.

If the capillaries are enlarged or abnormal, this may indicate that the patient has a connective tissue disease.

Blood test

Your health care provider may recommend a blood test for other medical conditions. The tests to detect other autoimmune diseases.

Vibration white finger

A vibratory white finger refers to second Raynaud’s caused by vibration.

Usually the result is that someone regularly uses vibrating tools such as a vibrating tool that causes the fingers to feel tense and numb may cause a vibration white finger.

Your employer is responsible for keeping you safe.

If your job is impossible without vibrating tools, if the condition occurs immediately, notify your employer.

When a person uses vibrating equipment for long periods, it is possible to completely recover. An employer can notify the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) if you’re having a serious illness.

Possible complications

Secondary Raynaud can severely impede blood supply causing heightened risk of complications such as ulcers, scars or even tissue deaths.

A completely blocked artery can lead to sores (skin ulcers) or dead tissue, both of which can be difficult to treat. Rarely, extreme untreated cases might require removing the affected part of your body.

Surgery may be needed if you develop skin ulcers or serious tissue damage.

Can Raynaud’s Kill You?

No, but serious cases can cut off the blood flow to your skin and lead to tissue damage.

A completely blocked artery can lead to skin sores (ulcers) or dead tissue (gangrene).

It’s rare, but if this happens, the doctor might have to remove a finger or toe.

Severe cases are rare.

Treating Raynaud’s disease

Often it is possible to control Raynauds symptoms by using a cold hand warmer or avoiding sweat or by using relaxation exercises.

Using a nicotine pill or snorting alcohol is incredibly helpful when it helps reduce symptoms of edema.

If you cannot control your symptoms yourself you should consider taking nifediatine.

Treating Raynaud’s phenomenon

You can normally treat Raynaud’s phenomenon by yourself, though some drugs are needed.

When you get Raynaud’s disease, the diagnosis can require a specialist who is able to diagnose the condition.

If secondary Rayaud’s may have been an underlying problem with the medication, then it is possible that you may have to take the medication until you feel better.

Increase the temperature or wear warm clothes when in an air-conditioned space can help.

If lifestyle modifications do not work, medications that improve blood flow to the toes and fingers (e.g., calcium channel blockers, prescription skin creams) can often do the trick.


Other medications that have treat raynaud’s disease include alpha-blockers, which counteract norepinephrine, a hormone that constricts blood vessels, and vasodilators (drugs that relax the blood vessels), such as nitroglycerine paste, which is applied to the fingers, to help heal skin ulcers. It is important to note that treatment with medications is not always successful. Often, patients with the secondary form of Raynaud’s will not respond as well to treatment as those with the primary form of the disorder.


Keep a journal detailing when episodes occur.

Triggers for these episodes may become evident.

Look after your hands and feet.

Dry hands and feet can develop skin cracks, so it’s important to moisturize them to prevent dryness.

Make sure your whole body is kept warm, using several layers of clothing to trap body heat.

Protect your hands when in water with barrier creams or rubber gloves.

Exercise regularly to maintain blood flow and skin condition.

Physical activity can also help increase your energy levels, control your weight, improve your cardiovascular (heart) fitness and help you to sleep better.

It may be helpful to talk with an occupational therapist about ways you can do your everyday tasks, while at the same time protecting your hands and feet.

Be aware that even holding something cold, such as a can of drink, can trigger symptoms.

Don’t smoke cigarettes or drink caffeinated beverages, as nicotine and caffeine constrict blood vessels

When to see a doctor

Contact the doctor immediately for any symptoms of Raynaud’s.

Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment of a medical or health condition


The services of physicians differ by varying their trainings and experiences and hospitals differ in their availability.

The greater the complexity of the medical issue the more these different qualities will be.

It will certainly affect the doctor and hospital in your decision to receive complicated, specialized medical care.

For information on these decisions, please view our Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thorac Institute results.

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Show Sources SOURCES: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Raynaud’s Phenomenon.” American College of Rheumatology: “Raynaud’s Phenomenon.” JAMA Dermatology patient page: “Raynaud’s Phenomenon.” The Raynaud’s Association.

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