Merck Manual

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Quick Facts

Raynaud Syndrome

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Sep 2019
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What is Raynaud syndrome?

Raynaud syndrome is a problem with blood flow in your fingers and rarely your toes.

  • Blood vessels in your fingers close up too much

  • The ends of your fingers turn pale and blue and feel numb and tingly

  • It's most common in women ages 15 to 40

  • Raynaud syndrome can be caused by another health problem or happen just by itself

  • Sometimes, it's caused by a medicine you’re taking

  • Avoiding cold and stopping smoking can help prevent symptoms

What causes Raynaud syndrome?

Most of the time there's no clear cause of Raynaud syndrome. Symptoms happen more when you're cold and if you smoke. Emotional stress triggers symptoms in some people.

Sometimes Raynaud syndrome is caused by another disorder such as:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis—an autoimmune disease that attacks your joints, causing swelling and pain

  • Systemic sclerosis—an autoimmune disease that causes blood vessel problems and your skin to harden

  • Atherosclerosis— blockage of your arteries by a buildup of fatty material

  • Hypothyroidism—your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough hormone

What are the symptoms of Raynaud syndrome?

Symptoms of Raynaud syndrome happen quickly and may last for a few minutes or for hours:

  • One or more fingers or toes turns pale or blue, usually in patches

  • Your fingers feel numb, tingly, painful, or burning

Warming your hands or feet will help symptoms go away.

How can doctors tell if I have Raynaud syndrome?

Doctors can usually tell you have Raynaud syndrome by examining you and asking you about your symptoms. To find out if another disorder is causing your Raynaud syndrome, they may do tests such as:

  • Blood tests

  • Ultrasound of blood vessels in your arm before and after you're exposed to cold

How do doctors treat Raynaud syndrome?

Doctors will treat any health problems causing your Raynaud syndrome.

To treat your symptoms, doctors will have you:

  • Dress warmly and avoid the cold

  • If you smoke, stop smoking

  • If you get symptoms when excited, do biofeedback therapy or take sedatives

  • Take medicines to widen your blood vessels, such as calcium channel blockers

As a last resort, doctors may do a procedure to cut certain nerves that control the size of your blood vessels. Even when this procedure helps, symptoms often come back in a year or two.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
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