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Raynaud Disease and Phenomenon

Pronounced: ray-NODES



Raynaud phenomenon is a problem with the blood vessels. It causes blood flow problems to the fingers ears, nose, and lips.

Constriction of Blood Vessels

Nucleus factsheet image

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Primary Raynaud phenomenon is the most common form. It is not linked to another medical issue.

Secondary Raynaud phenomenon is linked to another disease. It is most often linked to systemic scleroris, a joint disease, blood disorder, or blocked arteries.


Causes    TOP

Blood vessels should narrow with cold temperatures or emotional stress. In Raynaud, the blood vessels narrow too much. Blood flow to tissue past this area is severely slowed. Fingers are affected most often.

The exact cause of this overreation is not known. Primary Raynaud may be caused by a problem of the nervous system. Secondary Raynaud is thought to be caused by the linked disease.


Risk Factors    TOP

Raynaud is more common in females. It tends to show between ages 15 to 40 years old. Factors that may increase your chance of Raynaud include:

  • Activities that involve repeated stress to hands such as:
    • Typing
    • Playing piano
    • Regular operation of vibrating tools, as in construction
    • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • A connective tissue disease, such as scleroderma
  • Diseases of the arteries, including atherosclerosis
  • Injury of the hands or feet, such as wrist fractures or frostbite
  • Smoking
  • Certain medications, such as:
    • Beta-blockers
    • Cancer chemotherapy
    • Cold remedies
    • Migraine medications containing ergotamine
    • Estrogen-containing medications

Symptoms    TOP

Raynaud symptoms occur in attacks. They may last a few minutes to a few hours. It is often a reaction to cold or emotional distress. During an attack, symptoms may include:

  • Change in skin color to white then to blue—as blood flow is slowed
  • Skin color change to red once blood is flowing again
  • Throbbing and tingling sensations, stinging, pain, and swelling of the area—at the end of the attack as blood flow returns

Diagnosis    TOP

The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:

  • Nailfold capillaroscopy—study of the small blood vessels under a microscope
  • Thermography—scan that reads temperature on body
  • Blood tests—to help distinguish between Primary and Secondary Raynaud

Treatment    TOP

Treatment can lower the number of attacks. It may also decrease how severe they are. Treating the related medical issue will help to manage secondary Raynaud.

Other steps for primary or secondary include:

Home Care

Home care steps can help to ease symptoms during an attack:

  • Warm (not hot) water can be run over fingers and toes. Avoid hot water or wrap. It can cause damage to skin.
  • Move inside, out of cold areas.
  • Use of warm areas of the body to warm hands. Armpits or belly are good choices.
  • Movement can help to encourage blood flow. May be as small as wiggling fingers or toes or wide circles with arms.

Steps can also help to prevent attacks:


Medicine may help to ease symptoms that do not respond to home care. Blood vessel size can be increased with one of the following:

  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Alpha-blockers
  • Vasodilators:
    • PDE5 inhibitors
    • IV prostanoids

Medicine that is causing problems may need to be stopped or switched.

Nerve Procedures    TOP

Nerves control the size of blood vessels. Procedures to destroy or stop the nerves may be needed if other steps have not worked. Options include:

  • Chemical injection—chemical stops nerves from working well.
  • Surgery—nerves are cut. Not a common treatment step.

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines for preventing Raynaud phenomenon.


Arthritis Foundation

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


The Arthritis Society

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Herrick AL. Evidence-based management of Raynaud’s phenomenon. Ther Adv Musculoskeletal Dis. 2017;9(12):317-329.

Raynaud phenomenon. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115788/Raynaud-phenomenon . Updated November 28, 2018. Accessed September 10, 2019.

Raynauds phenomenon. Cedars Sinai website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 10, 2019.

Raynaud's phenomenom. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 10, 2019.

Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 9/10/2019

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