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Home  /  Patient Resources   /  Living with Rheumatic Diseases   /  Facts on Raynaud’s

Facts on Raynaud’s

1.Raynaud’s phenomenon, often just called Raynaud’s, is a condition where the small blood vessels of the fingers become narrow (constrict), most commonly when they are in a cold environment.

2.It can also be triggered by stress or emotional changes.

3.Typically, symptoms develop in fingers when you become cool – for example, in cold weather.

  • At first the fingers go white and cool. This happens because the small blood vessels in the fingers narrow (constrict).
  • The fingers then go a bluish colour (or even purple or black in severe cases). This happens because the oxygen is used up quickly from the blood in the narrowed blood vessels.
  • The fingers then go bright red. This happens because blood vessels open up again (dilate) and the blood flow returns. This may cause tingling, throbbing, numbness and pain (which can be severe in some cases).


4. Raynaud’s phenomenon may be present for many years before any other clinically significant symptoms or systemic manifestations occur.
5. About 1 in 20 people develop Raynaud’s phenomenon.
6. Up to 9 in 10 cases are primary Raynaud’s. Primary Raynaud’s usually first develops in teenagers and young adults, but it can develop at any age.
7. Secondary Raynaud’s can develop at any age when the underlying condition develops. Its associated with scleroderma (90%), lupus, rheumatoid arthritis amongst other connective tissue disease.

Features that may suggest secondary Raynaud’s include:

  • Onset of symptoms after 30 years of age.
  • Abrupt onset with rapid progression and worsening of symptoms.
  • Severe symptoms that may include an ulcer or gangrene of part of a finger or toe.
  • Symptoms that only affect one hand or foot, or the symptoms are not the same or as severe on both hands and feet.
  • Joint pains or arthritis.
  • Skin rashes.
  • Dry eyes or mouth.
  • Muscle weakness or pain.
  • Swallowing difficulties.
  • Mouth ulcers.
  • Previous work with vibrating tools

What can I do to reduce symptoms of Raynaud’s?

  1. Quit smoking as it worsens the symptoms
  2. Such medicines include beta-blockers, some anti-migraine medicines, decongestants and, very occasionally, the contraceptive pill.
  3. Caffeine (in tea, coffee, cola and in some painkillers) triggers symptoms in some people. Try cutting out caffeine for a few weeks to see if it helps. Amphetamines and cocaine may also be a trigger.
  4. Try to keep warm in cool weather or in cool environments
  5. Regular exercise is recommended by many experts. Exercise your hands and feet frequently to improve the circulation.
  6. When a bout of symptoms develops, warm the affected hands or feet as soon as possible. Soaking the hands or feet in warm running water is a good way to get warm (but take care that the water does not become too hot, or lose its heat and become cool).