Michelle Badash, MS
Raynauds disease and phenomenon are problems with the blood vessels. It causes blood flow problems to the fingers ears, nose, and lips.
Raynauds disease (primary Raynauds) is the most common form. There are no other associated medical conditions.
Raynauds phenomenon (secondary Raynauds) is the more severe form. It occurs along with other medical conditions such as:
Blood vessels normally narrow in response to cold temperatures or emotional stress. Raynauds is an exaggerated response to these triggers. The narrow blood vessels make it difficult to get enough blood flow to certain areas of the body. Fingers are affected most often.
It is not known what causes this abnormal reaction, but it is probably related to a problem of the nervous system. Secondary Raynauds is believed to be caused by the associated disease.
Raynauds is more common in females and those aged 15-40 years old. Factors that may increase your chance of Raynauds include:
An attack of Raynauds may last a few minutes to a few hours. It usually comes on in response to the cold or during emotional distress. During an attack, symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
There are several ways to reduce the symptoms of Raynauds during an attack:
Try to stimulate blood circulation by wiggling your fingers and toes. Make wide circles with your arms.
When the above measures fail, medications may help relieve symptoms. Medications that can affect blood vessel size include:
Rarely, surgery may be done when symptoms are persistent and debilitating. This involves cutting the sympathetic nerves that supply the affected fingers. These nerves control the expansion and narrowing of blood vessels.
Chemicals may be injected into the nerve that is responsible for the narrowed blood vessel. The chemical stops the nerve.
Treating the underlying disorder will help manage the symptoms of Secondary Raynauds.
There are no current guidelines for preventing Primary or Secondary Raynauds. To help prevent Raynauds symptoms:
To minimize the risk of complications from Raynauds:
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
The Arthritis Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Goundry B, et al. Diagnosis and management of Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Raynaud phenomenon. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115788/Raynaud-phenomenon. Updated August 16, 2016. Accessed September 13, 2016.
Raynauds phenomenom. Cedars Sinai website. Available at:
http://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Patients/Health-Conditions/Raynauds-Phenomenon.aspx. Accessed April 3, 2013.
Raynauds phenomenom. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Raynauds_Phenomenon/raynauds_phenomenon_ff.pdf. Accessed April 3, 2013.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Rimas Lukas, MD
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