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Raynaud’s Disease & Phenomenon

Clinical Overview

Reviewed by Brian R. Robinson, MD

Raynaud’s is a disorder of the circulatory system that affects blood circulation to the fingers and occasionally to the toes. Raynaud’s causes blood vessels to constrict and temporarily stop blood flow. The skin in the affected area turns white and feels cold and numb. As the blood vessels slowly open up, the skin tingles and turns blue and then red before returning to its normal color. Attacks can last anywhere from minutes to hours.

Raynaud’s disease is often called Primary Raynaud’s or Raynaud's phenomenon. Most cases of Raynaud’s fall into this category. It’s a fairly common condition that can affect anyone, but usually strikes women under 40. The cause is unknown.

Secondary Raynaud’s is more likely to arise in either the hands or feet, not in both as Primary Raynaud’s can. Secondary Raynaud’s can be linked to an underlying disorder, medication, or activity. Conditions that may hasten Raynaud’s symptoms include smoking, cold temperatures, and the operation of equipment that vibrates. Other causes include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, some medications, thyroid disease, arterial disease, and trauma.

Raynaud's is sometimes called “white finger,” “wax finger,” or “dead finger.” If the condition progresses, blood flow to the hand or foot area could become permanently decreased, causing the fingers to become thin and tapered. If an artery becomes blocked, gangrene or ulceration of the skin may occur.

Last updated: Jan-01-00

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