Raynaud's disease and phenomenon are circulatory disorders. During an attack, blood vessels narrow. This causes blood flow to the fingers and sometimes ears, nose, and lips to be severely reduced. Cold temperatures or emotional stress, such as excitement or nervousness, are the usual causes of attacks. Although blood vessels naturally become narrower under these circumstances, Raynaud's is an abnormally exaggerated response.
Primary Raynaud's (Raynaud's Disease)—This is the most common form. Primary Raynaud's occurs by itself, in the absence of other medical conditions.
Secondary Raynaud's (Raynaud's Phenomenon)—This is the more severe form. People with secondary Raynaud's also have some other underlying medical condition that is thought to also cause Raynaud's. Some common conditions associated with Raynaud's include:
Many other symptoms related to their underlying connective tissue disorder
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:
Nailfold capillaroscopy—study of the capillaries under a microscope
Blood tests—to help distinguish between Raynaud's disease and phenomenon, and to help identify underlying autoimmune conditions:
Antinuclear Antibody Test (ANA)
Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
There are several ways to reduce the symptoms of Raynaud's during an attack:
Create Warmth for Fingers and Toes
Run warm (not hot) water over fingers and toes as quickly as possible. However, do not place anything hot on your skin, as it may cause damage.
If you are outside, move inside.
Place your hands on a warm area of the body, such as under your armpits or on the abdomen.
Stimulate Blood Flow
Try to stimulate blood circulation by wiggling your fingers and toes, and making wide circles with your arms.
When the above measures fail, medications may help relieve symptoms, and even help begin to heal skin ulcers that have formed. Medications may include:
Calcium channel blockers, such as nifedipine
Alpha-blockers, such as prazosin
Vasodilators, such as a nitroglycerin cream
Rarely, surgery may be done when symptoms are persistent and debilitating. This involves cutting the sympathetic nerves that supply the affected fingers (called sympathetectomy). In extremely rare instances, a finger of toe that has suffered gangrene may require amputation.
Chemicals may be injected into the sympathetic nerve that is responsible for blood vessel constriction.
Treating Underlying Medical Condition
If you have Raynaud's phenomena, successful management of the underlying connective tissue or vascular disorder can help to relieve symptoms.
There are no guidelines for preventing Raynaud's disease and phenomenon. To prevent symptoms of Raynaud's:
Stay warm. Avoid cold temperatures when possible.
Dress in layers.
Always wear clothing that covers extremities (hats, gloves, socks, etc.).
Learn to adapt to stressful situations.
Don't smoke. If you smoke, quit.
Consider using biofeedback training to control body temperature.
Avoid the use of medications known to exacerbate Raynaud’s.
To minimize the risk of complications from Raynaud's:
Keep skin on fingers and toes lubricated and protected.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a