What is Raynaud’s phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition that causes the blood vessels in the hands and feet to narrow, decreasing blood flow. When this happens, parts of the body—usually the fingers and toes—become cold and numb, and change color (usually, to white or blue). An attack usually happens from exposure to cold or stress.

Who gets Raynaud’s phenomenon?

Anyone can get Raynaud’s phenomenon, but some people are more likely to have it than others. It is more common in:

  • Women.
  • People who have a family history of the condition.
  • People who live in a cold climate.

Other factors include having other diseases or conditions and taking certain medications.

What are the types of Raynaud’s phenomenon?

There are two types of Raynaud’s phenomenon.

  • Primary Raynaud's phenomenon is the more common form. Doctors do not know what causes this type.
  • Secondary Raynaud's phenomenon is usually caused by another disease or problem, such as a disease like lupus or scleroderma. Exposure to cold or certain chemicals may also cause this type of Raynaud’s. The secondary form can be more serious than the primary form.

What are the symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon happens when “attacks” affect parts of the body, especially the fingers and toes. The attack causes the fingers and toes to turn pale or white and become cold and numb. Getting cold is the most common trigger, such as when you grab a glass of ice water or take something out of the freezer. Entering an air-conditioned building on a warm day also can lead to an attack.

An attack may last a few minutes or a few hours, and pain levels during the attack can vary. When you warm up, your skin may tingle or burn.

For many people, especially those with the primary form of Raynaud’s phenomenon, the symptoms are mild. People with the secondary form tend to have more severe symptoms.

What causes Raynaud’s phenomenon?

Doctors do not know exactly why Raynaud’s phenomenon develops in some people. They do understand that attacks usually happen when people with Raynaud’s phenomenon are exposed to cold or stress.

View/Download/Order Publications