What is Raynaud's Phenomenon?

Article Details
  • Written By: Cathy Rogers
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
The average American has around 60 "bad days" a year; lack of sleep is the biggest contributing factor.  more...

October 20 ,  1973 :  The "Saturday Night Massacre"  more...

Raynaud's phenomenon is a disorder that causes the blood vessels in the fingers and toes to constrict, which results in discoloration, numbness and/or throbbing or tingling. The attacks are triggered by exposure to cold temperatures or, sometimes, emotional stress.

When someone with Raynaud's phenomenon is exposed to cold or experiences a stressful situation, blood flow to the extremities is reduced. The small blood vessels that supply blood to the fingers, toes, and sometimes nose, lips or earlobes, contract. As these arteries constrict, or even collapse, the affected area changes in color and feeling. During an attack, the digits might turn white, blue or red, and can also feel cold or numb. When the attack ends, the return of the blood flow can cause throbbing, tingling or swelling.

In 1862, a French physician, Maurice Raynaud, published the first report of the condition later named Raynaud's phenomenon. In his report, he described a young woman whose fingertips changed colors when she was exposed to cold or experienced emotional stress. Between 5-10% of the U.S. population are estimated to have Raynaud's phenomenon. Other names for Raynaud's phenomenon include Raynaud's syndrome and Raynaud's disease.


To prevent attacks, those who suffer from Raynaud's phenomenon can take precautionary measures including dressing warmly, reducing stress, exercising regularly and not smoking. Other helpful behaviors include using insulated glasses for drinking, wearing gloves when handling frozen or refrigerated foods, and using foot and hand warmer devices, such as those sold in sporting goods stores. Because even air conditioning can trigger an attack, dressing in layers is advantageous.

Once an attack occurs, moving indoors and using warm water to warm the extremities can shorten the duration of an episode. Learning to relax is also beneficial to some patients with Raynaud's phenomenon. Biofeedback techniques, in which the sufferer learns to increase the blood supply to his or her extremities, are helpful in some cases.

There are two forms of Raynaud's phenomenon. The primary form, which is the milder form, occurs in persons with no underlying medical disease or problems. The most likely patient is a woman between the ages of 15 and 40. The secondary, and more serious, form of Raynaud's phenomenon occurs in people who have connective tissue diseases, such as lupus, scleroderma, Sjögren's syndrome, dermatomyositis, polymyositis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Other possible causes of secondary Raynaud's phenomenon include carpal tunnel syndrome, obstructive arterial disease and some medications. Certain occupations that involve exposure to certain chemicals or toxic substances, or those that involve the use of vibrating tools, such as a jackhammer, can also trigger the secondary form of the disorder.

Although there is no cure for Raynaud's phenomenon, drug treatment is successful in some cases. Oral medications include calcium channel blockers and alpha blockers. Calcium channel blockers, which dilate the blood vessels and promote circulation, work for many patients. Some patients who have developed skin ulcers apply a nitroglycerin paste to affected fingers.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 2

This may be due to the fact that stress can affect some people in much more drastic ways than it affects others. Learning to relax and enjoy the unexpected quirks of life may actually be a helpful way to combat this issue.

Post 1

Why would you give a calcium channel blocker for one simple effect? Niacinamides have shown in many studies do a very good job of regulating nerve function and health, vascular dilation, flushing and warming of skin. While increasing insulin secretions and insulin response, often side effects include better mood from lack of a glycemic jumping jacks all day (technical term by the way). Although it is interesting that Uhthoff's phenomenon in multiple sclerosis patients is the exact opposite onset, heat and stress can trigger its episodes instead of cold and stress, but has some of the same underlying nervous system stress'.

I have a friend that has raynaud's she thought it was only hypoglycemia, since she would recover if she

ate a snack. her hands would hurt and go spottie white and grow cold in times of stress it would be at its worst. She does have epstein-barr, which is a common factor in MS as well as chronic inflammation

or viral/retroviral such as mononucleosis or like my friend chronic inner ear infections along with epstein-barr, might trigger an autoimmune response but the effects might not be noticed till much later. If there was a significant degredation to the posterior hypothalamus the tempature regulators for both the central and peripheral tempature sernsors might become chaotic. Showing signs of a simular but

asymetrical reversal of phenomenon, not to mention one neurodegenerative and the other a peripheraly targeted nervedegenerations chronic persistence might mean the same fliped switch or faulty gene in the stimulation of the bodys stem cell response. both sheaths, nervous and neuroaxons should be rebuildable.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?