Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Arthritis Health Center

Font Size

Raynaud's Phenomenon - Topic Overview

derm_01.jpg

What is Raynaud's phenomenon?

Raynaud's (say "ray-NOHZ") phenomenon is a problem with blood flow. Your body doesn't send enough blood to your hands and feet, so they feel very cold and numb. In most cases, this lasts for a short time when your body overreacts to cold temperatures.

You may also hear this condition called Raynaud's syndrome or Raynaud's disease.

For most people, Raynaud's is more of a nuisance than a disability.

What causes Raynaud's phenomenon?

Often Raynaud's has no known cause. (This is sometimes called primary Raynaud's.)

Raynaud's is usually a symptom of another disease, such as lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, or atherosclerosis. It may also be caused by taking certain medicines, using vibrating power tools for several years, smoking, or having frostbite. (This is sometimes called secondary Raynaud's.)

Certain things can trigger an attack of symptoms. The most common trigger is exposure to cold. In the cold, it's normal for the body to narrow the small blood vessels to the skin and to open the blood vessels to the inside parts of the body to keep the body warm. But with Raynaud's, the body restricts blood flow to the skin more than it needs to. Other triggers can include emotional stress and things that affect the flow of blood, such as smoking, caffeine, and some medicines.

What are the symptoms?

During an attack of Raynaud's, the body limits blood flow to the hands and feet. This makes them feel cold and numb and then turn white or blue. As blood flow returns and the fingers or toes warm up, they may turn red and begin to throb and hurt. In rare cases, Raynaud's affects the nose or ears.

An attack most often lasts only a few minutes. But in some cases it may last more than an hour.

How is Raynaud's phenomenon diagnosed?

To diagnose Raynaud's, your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam. You'll need to describe what happens during an attack. If you can take a photo of the affected area during an attack, the photo may also be helpful to your doctor.

There are no tests that can show that you have Raynaud's. But your doctor may do a blood test or other tests to rule out diseases that may be causing your symptoms.

1|2

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 08, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Mature woman exercise at home
Hint: Warming up first is crucial.
feet with gout
Quiz yourself.
 
woman in pain
One idea? Eat fish to curb inflammation.
senior couple walking
Can you keep your RA from progressing?
 
xray of knees with osteoarthritis
Slideshow
close up of man wearing dress shoes
Slideshow
 
feet with gout
Quiz
close up of red shoe in shoebox
Slideshow
 
salad
Video
two male hands
ARTICLE
 
Woman massaging her neck
Quiz
5 Lupus Risk Factors
Article