Raynaud's Phenomenon

What is Raynaud's phenomenon?

Raynaud's phenomenon or, simply, Raynaud's, is a disorder characterized by decreased blood flow - usually to the fingers, and less frequently to the ears, toes, nipples, knees, or nose. Vascular spasms usually occur as attacks in response to cold exposure or emotional upset.

Raynaud's can occur alone or may occur with other diseases. The diseases most frequently associated with Raynaud's are autoimmune or connective tissue diseases, among others, such as the following:

What causes Raynaud's phenomenon?

The exact cause of Raynaud's is unknown. One theory links blood disorders characterized by increased platelets or red blood cells that may increase the blood thickness. Another theory involves the special receptors in the blood that control the constriction of the blood vessels being more sensitive in individuals with Raynaud's.

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity, such as smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. Different diseases have different risk factors.

Although these factors can increase a person's risk, they do not necessarily cause the disease. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop a disease, while others develop the disease and have no known risk factors.

But, knowing your risk factors to any disease can help to guide you into the appropriate actions, including changing behaviors and being clinically monitored for the disease.

What are the risk factors for Raynaud's phenomenon?

There are certain diseases or lifestyle choices that can increase a person's risk for developing Raynaud's. These risk factors include the following:

What are the symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon?

The following are the most common symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

How is Raynaud's phenomenon diagnosed?

There are no specific laboratory tests that can confirm a diagnosis of Raynaud's phenomenon. Instead, diagnosis is usually based on reported symptoms. Your physician may perform a cold challenge test to bring out color changes in the hands.

Treatment for Raynaud's phenomenon:

Specific treatment for Raynaud's phenomenon will be determined by your physician based on:

Although there is no cure for Raynaud's phenomenon, the disorder can often be successfully managed with proper treatment. Treatment may include:

Individuals who first experience Raynaud's phenomenon in their 40s should be tested for an underlying disease. Up to 50 percent of individuals who have Raynaud's develop a secondary disorder, usually a connective tissue disorder.

Stanford Medicine Resources:

Footer Links: