Raynaud's phenomenon

Definition

Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition in which cold temperatures or strong emotions cause blood vessel spasms. This blocks blood flow to the fingers, toes, ears, and nose.

Causes

Raynaud's phenomenon can be linked to other conditions. This is called secondary Raynaud's phenomenon. Most people with the condition are over age 30.

Common causes are:

Raynaud's phenomenon can also occur without another cause. This is called primary Raynaud's phenomenon. It most often begins in people younger than age 30.

Symptoms

Strong emotions or exposure to the cold bring on the changes.

People with primary Raynaud's phenomenon have problems in the same fingers on both sides. Most people do not have much pain.

People with Raynaud's phenomenon that is due to other medical conditions are more likely to have pain or tingling in the fingers. The pain is rarely severe. Ulcers may form on the affected fingers if the attacks are very bad.

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider can often detect the condition by doing a physical exam and asking you questions.

Tests that may be done to confirm the diagnosis include:

Blood tests may be done to diagnose arthritic and autoimmune conditions that may cause Raynaud's phenomenon.

Treatment

Taking these steps may help control Raynaud's phenomenon:

Your health care provider may prescribe medicines to relax the walls of the blood vessels. These include topical nitroglycerin cream that you rub on your skin, calcium channel blockers, sildenafil (Viagra), and ACE inhibitors.

It is vital to treat the condition causing Raynaud's phenomenon.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome varies. It depends on the cause of the problem and how bad it is.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:


Review Date: 4/20/2013
Reviewed By: Gordon A. Starkebaum, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.