Pronounced: ray-NODESEn Español (Spanish Version)
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.
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There are two types:
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:
The cause of primary Raynaud's is not known, but it is probably related to an abnormality of the sympathetic nervous system. Secondary Raynaud's is believed to be caused by the associated disease.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for Raynaud's syndrome include:
An attack of Raynaud's may last a few minutes to a few hours. During an attack, symptoms may include:
People with secondary Raynaud's may experience other medical problems related to Raynaud's, such as:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include:
There are several ways to reduce the symptoms of Raynaud's during an attack:
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:
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.
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:
To minimize the risk of complications from Raynaud's:
Last reviewed November 2008 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
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 medical condition.