Raynaud’s Disease


Raynaud’s syndrome, known under various names such as Raynaud’s disease or Raynaud’s phenomenon, is characterized by the numbing and cooling of specific body parts, notably the fingers and toes, in response to stress or cold temperatures. This reaction stems from the constriction of smaller arteries that supply blood to the skin, leading to reduced blood flow in a process known as vasospasm. Women are more commonly affected by this condition, which tends to occur more frequently in colder climates.

The syndrome’s impact can also be felt in the blood vessels of the nose, lips, or earlobes, triggering episodic spasms or vasospastic attacks due to cold exposure or stress. These attacks cause the arterioles and capillaries in the fingers and toes to over-constrict, changing the skin color first to white and then blue as the blood’s oxygen level drops. The skin may remain cold or numb until the blood vessels relax and reopen, at which point it may turn red and feel tingly. Typically, these episodes last around 15 minutes.

Raynaud’s syndrome is categorized into two main types:

  • Primary Raynaud’s syndrome: Also referred to as Raynaud’s disease, this type occurs without an associated underlying condition.
  • Secondary Raynaud’s syndrome: Known as Raynaud’s phenomenon, this form is associated with other diseases.

Treatment strategies for Raynaud’s syndrome vary depending on its severity and whether other health conditions are present. Although not usually disabling, Raynaud’s can significantly affect one’s quality of life. Management aims to reduce the frequency and intensity of attacks, thus enhancing the patient’s quality of life.


Raynaud’s syndrome affects your skin, manifesting through several symptoms that typically fluctuate, appearing in episodes that may last from a few minutes to over 15 minutes. These symptoms include:

  • Color changes in skin: During an episode, the affected skin area may undergo changes in color, shifting from white to blue and then to red as blood flow decreases and subsequently returns. It’s worth noting that not everyone experiences all three color shifts.
  • Coldness and numbness: Affected areas, such as fingers, may feel particularly cold or numb due to the lack of oxygen-rich blood, similar to the sensation of a limb “falling asleep.”
  • Warmth, tingling, or throbbing: These sensations typically occur as blood flow resumes to the previously affected part of the body.
  • Skin ulcers and gangrene: In more severe or frequent episodes, painful sores can develop, primarily on the fingertips, and may take considerable time to heal. In rare cases, prolonged oxygen deprivation can lead to tissue death (gangrene).

Episodes of Raynaud’s syndrome are sporadic, often triggered by specific factors such as exposure to cold. While symptoms are generally mild in individuals with primary Raynaud’s syndrome, those with secondary Raynaud’s syndrome might experience more intense symptoms, including skin ulcers.
It’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention if you have a history of severe Raynaud’s syndrome and notice a sore or infection on any affected fingers or toes. Prompt medical evaluation can prevent complications and manage symptoms effectively.


Researchers have yet to ascertain the precise triggers behind Raynaud’s attacks, although it appears that the blood arteries in the hands and feet exhibit an exaggerated response to stress or cold stimuli. During periods of stress or exposure to cold, these arteries leading to the fingers and toes undergo constriction, thereby impeding blood flow. Over time, these small arteries may undergo a degree of thickening, further exacerbating the restriction of blood flow.

The primary culprit for triggering an attack is typically exposure to cold temperatures, such as reaching into a freezer, submerging hands in cold water, or being outside in chilly weather. Additionally, emotional stress has been identified as a potential trigger for certain individuals.

Secondary Raynaud’s symptoms typically manifest around the age of 40, following the onset of primary Raynaud’s symptoms.

The following causes of secondary Raynaud’s include:

  • Arterial diseases: Among them are disorders causing inflammation in the blood vessels of the hands and feet and fatty deposits to accumulate in the blood vessels that supply the heart. The secondary cause of Raynaud’s disease is a form of hypertension that damages the arteries in the lungs.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: A main nerve that supplies the hand is compressed in this condition. The pressure results in pain and numbness in the hand, which may increase the hand’s sensitivity to cold.
  • Connective tissue diseases: The majority of patients with scleroderma, a rare condition that causes the skin to stiffen and scar, also have Raynaud’s disease. Rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and lupus are other conditions that raise the risk of Raynaud’s syndrome.
  • Injuries to the hands or feet: Frostbite, surgery, and a fractured wrist are a few examples.
  • Medications: These include specific medications for migraines, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, cancer, and certain cold remedies, as well as beta blockers for high blood pressure.
  • Repeated actions or vibration: Overuse injuries can arise from prolonged use of devices such as keyboards, pianos, or other similar machinery. Using vibrating instruments, like jackhammers, can also contribute.
  • Tobacco usage: Smoking causes blood arteries to constrict.

Risk factors

Primary Raynaud’s disease risk factors include:

  • Age: Primary Raynaud’s disease often manifests between the ages of 15 and 30, yet it can strike anyone at any time.
  • Gender: More women than men are affected by the disease.
  • Family history: The risk of primary Raynaud’s disease appears to be higher in those who have a parent, sibling, or child with the condition.
  • Climate: People who reside in colder climates are also more likely to get the condition.

Secondary Raynaud’s risk factors include:

  • Certain diseases: Lupus and scleroderma are some of these conditions that cause secondary Raynaud’s.
  • Occupation: These are occupations that repeatedly inflict injury, including operating vibrating instruments.
  • Other substances: This includes the use of drugs that alter blood arteries, smoking, and being in the presence of specific chemicals, including vinyl chloride.