phenomenon is a condition where blood flow to your fingers, toes, ears, or nose
is restricted or interrupted. This occurs when the blood vessels in your hands
or feet constrict. Episodes of constriction are called vasospasms.
phenomenon can accompany underlying medical conditions. Vasospasms that are
provoked by other conditions, such as arthritis, frostbite, or autoimmune
disease, are called secondary Raynaud’s.
phenomenon can also occur on its own. People who experience Raynaud’s but are
otherwise healthy are said to have primary Raynaud’s.
temperatures and emotional stress can trigger episodes of Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Symptoms of Raynaud’s Phenomenon
most common symptom of Raynaud’s phenomenon is discoloration of your fingers,
toes, ears, or nose. When the blood vessels carrying blood to your extremities
become blocked, the affected areas turn pure white and feel ice cold. You will
lose sensation in the affected areas. Your skin may also take on a blue tinge.
with primary Raynaud’s usually feel a drop in body temperature in the affected
region, but little pain. Those who have the secondary form of the condition
often experience severe pain, numbness, and tingling in the fingers or toes.
Episodes may last a few minutes or up to several hours.
the vasospasm is over and you enter a warm environment, your fingers and toes
may throb and appear bright red. The rewarming process begins after your
circulation improves. Your fingers and toes may not feel warm for 15 minutes or
more after circulated is restored.
you have primary Raynaud’s, you may find that the same fingers or toes on each
side of your body are affected at the same time. If you have the secondary form
of the condition, you may have symptoms on one or both sides of your body. No
two vasospasm episodes are exactly alike, even in the same person.
Causes of Raynaud’s Phenomenon
don’t fully understand the cause of Raynaud’s. Secondary Raynaud’s is usually
related to medical conditions or lifestyle habits that affect your blood
vessels or connective tissue, such as:
of medications and drugs that narrow your arteries, such as beta-blockers and
which is hardening of your arteries
conditions, such as lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjogren’s
triggers of Raynaud’s symptoms include:
with hand tools that emit vibrations
workers who use jackhammers, for example, may have an increased risk of
vasospasm. However, not everyone with the condition will have the same
triggers. It’s important to pay attention to your body and learn what your triggers
Who Gets Raynaud’s Phenomenon?
to the National Institute of
Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, women are more likely
than men to develop Raynaud’s phenomenon.
adults under the age of 30 have an increased risk of developing the primary
form of the condition. The onset of secondary Raynaud’s is more common in
adults in their 30s and 40s.
who live in colder geographic regions are more likely to be affected by
Raynaud’s phenomenon than inhabitants of warmer climates.
Diagnosing Raynaud’s Phenomenon
doctor will perform a physical exam, take your medical history, and perform
blood work to diagnose Raynaud’s phenomenon. They will ask you about your
symptoms and may request a microscopic examination of the nail folds near your
fingernails to determine if you have primary or secondary Raynaud’s. This
procedure is called capillaroscopy.
to the Mayo Clinic, people with
secondary Raynaud’s often have enlarged or deformed blood vessels near their
nail folds. This is in contrast to primary Reynaud’s, where your capillaries often
appear normal when vasospasm is not occurring.
tests can reveal whether or not you test positive for antinuclear antibodies
(ANA). The presence of ANAs can mean you are more likely to experience
autoimmune or connective tissue disorders. Such conditions put you at risk for
Treating Raynaud’s Phenomenon
changes are a large part of the treatment process for Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Avoiding substances that cause your blood vessels to constrict is the first line
of treatment. This includes avoiding caffeine and nicotine products.
warm and exercising can also prevent or reduce the intensity of some attacks.
Exercise is particularly good for promoting circulation and managing stress.
doctor may prescribe medication if you have frequent, long-lasting, or intense
vasospasm episodes. Drugs that cause vasodilation help your blood vessels
relax. These include:
medications can also make your condition worse because they constrict blood
vessels. Examples include:
Outlook for People with Raynaud’s
you have Raynaud’s phenomenon, your outlook depends on your overall health.
Over the long term, secondary Raynaud’s poses larger concerns than the primary
form. People who have secondary Raynaud’s are more likely to suffer from
infection, skin ulcers, and gangrene.
Coping with a Raynaud’s Phenomenon Attack
you have an attack of vasospasms, it’s important to keep yourself warm. To help
cope with an attack, you can:
your hands or feet with socks or gloves.
out of the cold and wind and rewarm your entire body.
your hands or feet under lukewarm (not hot) water.
calm can help reduce the severity of your attack. Try to remain as relaxed and
stress-free as possible. It may help to physically remove yourself from
stressful situations. Concentrating on your breathing can also help you calm