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(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
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
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
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.
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.
attack most often lasts only a few minutes. But in some cases it may last more
than an hour.
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.
If you have Raynaud's
that is caused by another disease, your doctor can treat that disease. This may
relieve your symptoms.
There is no cure for Raynaud's that occurs on its own (primary Raynaud's). But
you may be able to control it by avoiding the things that trigger it.
If you can't control your symptoms with these steps,
your doctor may give you a medicine called a calcium channel blocker. This may
increase blood flow to your hands and feet and relieve symptoms.
Some alternative treatments, such as herbal supplements and biofeedback training, have shown promise in treating Raynaud's. But they haven't been shown to work for everyone. Talk with your doctor if you're interested in trying any of these.
To keep your hands and feet warm:
To keep your whole body warm:
Learning about Raynaud's phenomenon:
The Arthritis Foundation provides grants to help find a
cure, prevention methods, and better treatment options for arthritis. It also
provides a large number of community-based services nationwide to make living
with arthritis easier, including self-help courses; water- and land-based
exercise classes; support groups; home study groups; instructional videotapes;
public forums; free educational brochures and booklets; the national, bimonthly
consumer magazine Arthritis Today; and continuing
education courses and publications for health professionals.
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal
and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) is a governmental institute that serves the public
and health professionals by providing information, locating other information
sources, and participating in a national federal database of health
information. NIAMS supports research into the causes, treatment, and prevention
of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases and supports the training of
scientists to carry out this research.
The NIAMS website provides
health information referrals to the NIAMS Clearinghouse, which has information
packages about diseases.
Other Works Consulted
Klippel JH (2008). Raynaud phenomenon. In K Wolff et
al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1643–1648. New York:
Pope J (2011). Raynaud's phenomenon (primary), search date May 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online:
Zaghloul SS, et al. (2010). Raynauld's disease and phenomenon. In MG Lebwohl et al., eds., Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies, 3rd ed., pp. 650–653. Edinburgh: Saunders Elsevier.
June 8, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Nancy Ann Shadick, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine, Rheumatology
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