Raynaud’s Phenomenon and Disease

primary vs. secondary Raynaud

Raynaud’s (ray-NOHZ) disease causes some areas of your body– such as your fingers and toes– to feel numb and cold in reaction to cold temperatures or stress. In Raynaud’s disease, smaller arteries that supply blood to your skin slim, limiting blood flow to impacted areas (vasospasm).

Women are more likely than men to have Raynaud’s disease, likewise known as Raynaud or Raynaud’s phenomenon or syndrome. It seems more common in people who live in colder climates.

Treatment of Raynaud’s disease depends on its severity and whether you have other health conditions. For many people, Raynaud’s disease isn’t disabling, but can impact quality of life.

Symptoms of Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Signs and symptoms of Raynaud’s depend on the frequency, period and severity of the blood vessel spasms that underlie the disorder. Raynaud’s disease signs and symptoms consist of:

  • Cold fingers or toes
  • Color modifications in your skin in reaction to cold or stress
  • Numb, prickly feeling or stinging pain upon warming or stress relief
  • During an attack of Raynaud’s, affected areas of your skin usually first turn white. Then, the affected areas typically turn blue and feel cold and numb. As you warm and circulation enhances, the influenced areas may turn red, throb, tingle or swell. The order of the color modifications isn’t the same for everybody, and not everybody experiences all 3 colors.

Although Raynaud’s most frequently impacts your fingers and toes, the condition can likewise influence other areas of your body, such as your nose, lips, ears as well as nipples. After warming, it might take 15 minutes for regular blood circulation to return to the area.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor right away if you have a history of severe Raynaud’s and establish a sore or infection in one of your afflicted fingers or toes.

Causes of Raynaud’s (Phenomenon) Disease

Medical professionals don’t entirely understand the cause of Raynaud’s attacks, however blood vessels in the hands and feet appear to overreact to cold temperatures or stress.

Blood vessels in spasm

With Raynaud’s, arteries to your fingers and toes go into vasospasm when exposed to cold or stress, narrowing your vessels and briefly limiting blood supply. With time, these little arteries may thicken slightly, additional limiting blood circulation.

Cold temperature levels are more than likely to activate an attack. Direct exposure to cold, such as putting your hands in cold water, taking something from a freezer or coming across cold air, is the most likely trigger. For some people, psychological stress can cause an episode of Raynaud’s.

Main vs. secondary Raynaud’s.

There are two primary types of the condition.

  • Main Raynaud’s. Also called Raynaud’s disease, this most common type isn’t the result of a hidden connected medical condition that might provoke vasospasm.
  • Secondary Raynaud’s. Likewise called Raynaud’s phenomenon, this form is brought on by an underlying issue.

Although secondary Raynaud’s is less common than the main type, it tends to be more severe. Symptoms and signs of secondary Raynaud’s typically appear later on in life– around age 40– than they provide for primary Raynaud’s.

Causes of secondary Raynaud’s include:

  • Connective tissue illness. Most people who have an uncommon disease that leads to hardening and scarring of the skin (scleroderma) have Raynaud’s. Other illness that enhance the risk of Raynaud’s include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome.
  • Illness of the arteries. Raynaud’s phenomenon can be connected with different illness that influence arteries, such as the buildup of plaques in blood vessels that feed the heart (atherosclerosis) or a condition in which the blood vessels of the hands and feet end up being inflamed (Buerger’s disease). A type of hypertension that impacts the arteries of the lungs (primary pulmonary hypertension) can be linked to Raynaud’s.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition includes pressure on a significant nerve to your hand (typical nerve) producing numbness and pain in the affected hand. The hand may end up being more susceptible to cold temperatures and episodes of Raynaud’s.
  • Recurring action or vibration. Typing, playing piano or doing similar movements for extended periods and running vibrating tools, such as jackhammers, can enhance your risk of developing Raynaud’s.
  • Cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking constricts capillary and is a possible reason for Raynaud’s.
    Injuries. Injuries to the hands or feet, such as wrist fracture, surgery or frostbite, can lead to Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • Particular medications. Some drugs– consisting of beta blockers, which are used to treat high blood pressure; migraine headache medications that contain ergotamine or sumatriptan; attention-deficit/hyperactivity condition medications; particular chemotherapy agents; and drugs that cause capillary to slim, such as some over-the-counter cold medications– have actually been linked to Raynaud’s.

Risk factors

Risk aspects for primary Raynaud’s consist of:

  • Sex. Primary Raynaud’s influences women more than men.
  • Age. Although anybody can develop the condition, primary Raynaud’s typically starts between the ages of 15 and 30.
  • Climate. The disorder is also more typical in people who live in cooler climates.
  • Family history. A family history appears to enhance your risk of primary Raynaud’s. About one-third of people with main Raynaud’s have a first-degree relative– a parent, sibling or child– with the condition.

Risk aspects for secondary Raynaud’s consist of:

  • Associated illness. These include conditions such as scleroderma and lupus.
  • Particular occupations. People in professions that cause repeated trauma, such as operating tools that vibrate, might be more vulnerable to secondary Raynaud’s.
  • Direct exposure to certain drugs. Smoking, medications that impact the blood vessels, and direct exposure to particular chemicals, such as vinyl chloride, are associated with an increased risk of Raynaud’s.


If Raynaud’s is severe– which is unusual– blood flow to your fingers or toes could completely lessen, triggering defects of your fingers or toes.

If an artery to an afflicted area ends up being blocked totally, sores (skin ulcers) or dead tissue (gangrene) may establish. Ulcers and gangrene can be hard to treat. In extreme untreated cases, your doctor may have to eliminate the afflicted part of your body (amputation).

Tests and medical diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and carry out a physical exam. Your doctor might also run tests to eliminate other medical problems that may cause comparable signs and symptoms, such as a pinched nerve.

Sorting out main vs. secondary Raynaud’s

To compare primary and secondary Raynaud’s, your doctor may perform an in-office test called nail fold capillaroscopy. During the test, the doctor examines your nail fold– the skin at the base of your fingernail– under a microscopic lense. Tiny capillary (blood vessels) near the nail fold that are enlarged or warped might indicate a hidden disease. Nevertheless, some secondary diseases can’t be found by this test.

If your doctor suspects that another condition, such as an autoimmune or connective tissue disease, underlies Raynaud’s, she or he might purchase blood tests, such as:

  • Antinuclear antibodies test. A positive test for the presence of these antibodies– produced by your body immune system– may show a promoted immune system and prevails in people who have connective tissue diseases or other autoimmune disorders.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate. This test figures out the rate at which red cell settle to the bottom of a tube. A faster than regular rate might signal a hidden inflammatory or autoimmune disease.

There’s no single blood test to identify Raynaud’s. Your doctor may purchase other tests, such as those that rule out illness of the arteries, to help determine a disease or condition that might be connected with Raynaud’s.



Updated: August 28, 2016 — 5:10 am

The Author

Reyus Mammadli

Healthy lifestyle advisor. Bachelor Degree of Medical Equipment and Electronics.
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