Raynaud syndrome

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Raynaud syndrome
Other names: Raynaud's, Raynaud's disease, Raynaud's phenomenon, Raynaud's syndrome[1]
A hand with pale fingers due to Raynaud's
SymptomsAn affected part turning white, then blue, then red, burning[2]
Complicationsskin sores, gangrene[2]
Usual onset15–30 year old, typically females[3][4]
DurationUp to several hours per episode[2]
Risk factorsCold, emotional stress[2]
Diagnostic methodBased on the symptoms[3]
Differential diagnosisCausalgia, erythromelalgia[5]
TreatmentAvoiding cold, calcium channel blockers, iloprost[3]
Frequency4% of people[3]

Raynaud syndrome, also known as Raynaud's phenomenon, is a medical condition in which spasm of arteries cause episodes of reduced blood flow.[1] Typically, the fingers, and less commonly the toes, are involved.[1] Rarely, the nose, ears, or lips are affected.[1] The episodes result in the affected part turning white and then blue.[2] Often, numbness or pain occurs.[2] As blood flow returns, the area turns red and burns.[2] The episodes typically last minutes, but can last several hours.[2]

Episodes are often triggered by cold or emotional stress.[2] The two main types are primary Raynaud's, when the cause is unknown, and secondary Raynaud's, which occurs as a result of another condition.[3] Secondary Raynaud's can occur due to a connective-tissue disorder, such as scleroderma or lupus, injuries to the hands, prolonged vibration, smoking, thyroid problems, and certain medications, such as birth control pills.[6] Diagnosis is typically based on the symptoms.[3]

The primary treatment is avoiding the cold.[3] Other measures include the discontinuation of nicotine or stimulant use.[3] Medications for treatment of cases that do not improve include calcium channel blockers and iloprost.[3] Little evidence supports alternative medicine.[3] Severe disease may rarely be complicated by skin sores or gangrene.[2]

About 4% of people have the condition.[3] Onset of the primary form is typically between ages 15 and 30 and occurs more frequently in females.[3][4] The secondary form usually affects older people.[4] Both forms are more common in cold climates.[4] It is named after the French physician Maurice Raynaud, who described the condition in 1862.[3]

Signs and symptoms

The condition can cause localized pain, discoloration (paleness), and sensations of cold and/or numbness.

When exposed to cold temperatures, the blood supply to the fingers or toes, and in some cases the nose or earlobes, is markedly reduced; the skin turns pale or white (called pallor) and becomes cold and numb. These events are episodic, and when the episode subsides or the area is warmed, the blood flow returns, and the skin color first turns red (rubor), and then back to normal, often accompanied by swelling, tingling, and a painful "pins and needles" sensation. All three color changes are observed in classic Raynaud's. However, not all patients see all of the aforementioned color changes in all episodes, especially in milder cases of the condition. The red flush is due to reactive hyperemia of the areas deprived of blood flow.

In pregnancy, this sign normally disappears due to increased surface blood flow. Raynaud's has occurred in breastfeeding mothers, causing nipples to turn white and painful.[7]



Raynaud's disease, or primary Raynaud's, is diagnosed if the symptoms are idiopathic, that is, if they occur by themselves and not in association with other diseases. Some refer to primary Raynaud's disease as "being allergic to coldness". It often develops in young women in their teens and early adulthood. Primary Raynaud's is thought to be at least partly hereditary, although specific genes have not yet been identified.[8]

Smoking increases frequency and intensity of attacks, and a hormonal component exists. Caffeine, estrogen, and nonselective beta-blockers are often listed as aggravating factors, but evidence that they should be avoided is not solid.[9]


Raynaud's phenomenon, or secondary Raynaud's, occurs secondary to a wide variety of other conditions.

Secondary Raynaud's has a number of associations:

Raynaud's can precede these other diseases by many years, making it the first presenting symptom. This may be the case in the CREST syndrome, of which Raynaud's is a part.

Patients with secondary Raynaud's can also have symptoms related to their underlying diseases. Raynaud's phenomenon is the initial symptom that presents for 70% of patients with scleroderma, a skin and joint disease.

When Raynaud's phenomenon is limited to one hand or one foot, it is referred to as unilateral Raynaud's. This is an uncommon form, and it is always secondary to local or regional vascular disease. It commonly progresses within several years to affect other limbs as the vascular disease progresses.[14]


Underlying mechanism

Its pathophysiology includes hyperactivation of the sympathetic nervous system causing extreme vasoconstriction of the peripheral blood vessels, leading to tissue hypoxia.


Heat signatures of a Raynaud's hand (top) and a healthy hand (bottom): Red indicates warm areas whilst green indicates cool areas. (Image taken with a thermographic camera)
Consensus diagnostic criteria

Distinguishing Raynaud's disease (primary Raynaud's) from phenomenon (secondary Raynaud's) is important. Looking for signs of arthritis or vasculitis, as well as a number of laboratory tests, may separate them. If suspected to be secondary to systemic sclerosis, one tool which may help aid in the prediction of systemic sclerosis is thermography.[15]

A careful medical history will seek to identify or exclude possible secondary causes.

To aid in the diagnosis of Raynaud's phenomenon, multiple sets of diagnostic criteria have been proposed.[16][17][18][19] Table 1 below provides a summary of these various diagnostic criteria.[20]

Recently, International Consensus Criteria were developed for the diagnosis of primary Raynaud's phenomenon by a panel of experts in the fields of rheumatology and dermatology.[20]


Secondary Raynaud's is managed primarily by treating the underlying cause, and as primary Raynaud's, avoiding triggers, such as cold, emotional and environmental stress, vibrations and repetitive motions, and avoiding smoking (including passive smoking) and sympathomimetic drugs.[21]


Medications can be helpful for moderate or severe disease.


  • In severe cases, an endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy procedure can be performed.[30] Here, the nerves that signal the blood vessels of the fingertips to constrict are surgically cut. Microvascular surgery of the affected areas is another possible therapy, but this procedure should be considered as a last resort.
  • A more recent treatment for severe Raynaud's is the use of botulinum toxin. The 2009 article[31] studied 19 patients ranging in age from 15 to 72 years with severe Raynaud's phenomenon of which 16 patients (84%) reported pain reduction at rest; 13 patients reported immediate pain relief, three more had gradual pain reduction over 1–2 months. All 13 patients with chronic finger ulcers healed within 60 days. Only 21% of the patients required repeated injections. A 2007 article[32] describes similar improvement in a series of 11 patients. All patients had significant relief of pain.

Alternative medicine

Evidence does not support the use of alternative medicine, including acupuncture and laser therapy.[3]


The prognosis of primary Raynaud syndrome is often very favorable, with no mortality and little morbidity. However, a minority develops gangrene. The prognosis of secondary Raynaud is dependent on the underlying disease, and how effective blood flow-restoring maneuvers are.[33]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "What Is Raynaud's?". NHLBI. 21 March 2014. Archived from the original on 4 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 "What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Raynaud's?". NHLBI. 21 March 2014. Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 Wigley, FM; Flavahan, NA (11 August 2016). "Raynaud's Phenomenon". The New England Journal of Medicine. 375 (6): 556–65. doi:10.1056/nejmra1507638. PMID 27509103.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "Who Is at Risk for Raynaud's?". NHLBI. 21 March 2014. Archived from the original on 5 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  5. Barker, Roger A. (2005). The A-Z of Neurological Practice: A Guide to Clinical Neurology. Cambridge University Press. p. 728. ISBN 9780521629607. Archived from the original on 24 April 2017.
  6. "What Causes Raynaud's?". NHLBI. 21 March 2014. Archived from the original on 4 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  7. Holmen OL, Backe B (2009). "An underdiagnosed cause of nipple pain presented on a camera phone". BMJ. 339: b2553. doi:10.1136/bmj.b2553.
  8. Pistorius MA, Planchon B, Schott JJ, Lemarec H (February 2006). "[Heredity and genetic aspects of Raynaud's disease]". Journal des Maladies Vasculaires (in French). 31 (1): 10–5. doi:10.1016/S0398-0499(06)76512-X. PMID 16609626. Archived from the original on 28 March 2020. Retrieved 6 February 2010.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  9. Wigley, Fredrick M.; Flavahan, Nicholas A. (10 August 2016). "Raynaud's Phenomenon". New England Journal of Medicine. 375 (6): 556–565. doi:10.1056/nejmra1507638. PMID 27509103.
  10. Gayraud M (January 2007). "Raynaud's phenomenon". Joint, Bone, Spine. 74 (1): e1–8. doi:10.1016/j.jbspin.2006.07.002. PMID 17218139.
  11. Goldman W, Seltzer R, Reuman P (2008). "Association between treatment with central nervous system stimulants and Raynaud's syndrome in children: A retrospective case–control study of rheumatology patients". Arthritis & Rheumatism. 58 (2): 563–566. doi:10.1002/art.23301. PMID 18240233.
  12. "Raynaud's disease Treatments and drugs - Mayo Clinic". www.mayoclinic.org. Archived from the original on 12 December 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  13. Berlin AL, Pehr K (March 2004). "Coexistence of erythromelalgia and Raynaud's phenomenon". Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 50 (3): 456–60. doi:10.1016/S0190-9622(03)02121-2. PMID 14988692.
  14. Priollet P (October 1998). "[Raynaud's phenomena: diagnostic and treatment study]". La Revue du Praticien (in French). 48 (15): 1659–64. PMID 9814067.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  15. Anderson ME, Moore TL, Lunt M, Herrick AL (March 2007). "The 'distal-dorsal difference': a thermographic parameter by which to differentiate between primary and secondary Raynaud's phenomenon". Rheumatology. 46 (3): 533–8. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/kel330. PMID 17018538.
  16. Brennan P, Silman A, Black C (May 1993). "Validity and reliability of three methods used in the diagnosis of Raynaud's phenomenon. The UK Scleroderma Study Group". British Journal of Rheumatology. 32 (5): 357–361. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/32.5.357. PMID 8495253.
  17. Wigley FM (September 2002). "Clinical Practice.Raynaud's phenomenon". New England Journal of Medicine. 347 (13): 1001–1008. doi:10.1056/nejmcp013013. PMID 12324557.
  18. LeRoy EC, Medsger TA (September–October 1992). "Raynaud's phenomenon: a proposal for classification". Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology. 10 (5): 485–488. PMID 1458701.
  19. Maricq HR, Weinrich MC (March 1998). "Diagnosis of Raynaud's phenomenon assisted by color charts". Journal of Rheumatology. 15 (3): 454–459. PMID 3379622.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Maverakis E, Patel F, Kronenberg D (2014). "International consensus criteria for the diagnosis of Raynaud's phenomenon". Journal of Autoimmunity. 48–49: 60–5. doi:10.1016/j.jaut.2014.01.020. PMC 4018202. PMID 24491823.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 21.6 21.7 Mikuls, Ted R; Canella, Amy C; Moore, Gerald F; Erickson, Alan R; Thiele, Geoffery M; O'Dell, James R (2013). "Connective Tissue Diseases". Rheumatology. London: Manson Publishing. p. 117. ISBN 978-1-84076-173-3.
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  23. Ennis, Holly; Hughes, Michael; Anderson, Marina E.; Wilkinson, Jack; Herrick, Ariane L. (25 February 2016). "Calcium channel blockers for primary Raynaud's phenomenon". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2: CD002069. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002069.pub5. ISSN 1469-493X. PMC 7065590. PMID 26914257.
  24. Rirash, Fadumo; Tingey, Paul C; Harding, Sarah E; Maxwell, Lara J; Tanjong Ghogomu, Elizabeth; Wells, George A; Tugwell, Peter; Pope, Janet (13 December 2017). "Calcium channel blockers for primary and secondary Raynaud's phenomenon". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 12: CD000467. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd000467.pub2. ISSN 1465-1858. PMC 6486273. PMID 29237099.
  25. Harding, Sarah E; Tingey, Paul C; Pope, Janet; Fenlon, D; Furst, Dan; Shea, Beverley; Silman, Alan; Thompson, A; Wells, George A (27 April 1998). "Prazosin for Raynaud's phenomenon in progressive systemic sclerosis". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd000956. ISSN 1465-1858. PMC 7032637. PMID 10796398.
  26. Pancera P, Sansone S, Secchi S, Covi G, Lechi A (November 1997). "The effects of thromboxane A2 inhibition (picotamide) and angiotensin II receptor blockade (losartan) in primary Raynaud's phenomenon". Journal of Internal Medicine. 242 (5): 373–6. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2796.1997.00219.x. PMID 9408065.
  27. Dziadzio M; Denton CP; Smith R; et al. (December 1999). "Losartan therapy for Raynaud's phenomenon and scleroderma: clinical and biochemical findings in a fifteen-week, randomized, parallel-group, controlled trial". Arthritis and Rheumatism. Elsevier Saunergic blockers such as prazosin can be used to control Raynaud's vasospasms under supervision of a health care provider. 42 (12): 2646–55. doi:10.1002/1529-0131(199912)42:12<2646::AID-ANR21>3.0.CO;2-T. PMID 10616013.
  28. Waldo R (March 1979). "Prazosin relieves Raynaud's vasospasm". JAMA. 241 (10): 1037. doi:10.1001/jama.241.10.1037. PMID 762741.
  29. Linnemann B, Erbe M (2016). "Raynaud's phenomenon and digital ischaemia – pharmacologic approach and alternative treatment options". VASA. 45 (3): 201–12. doi:10.1024/0301-1526/a000526. PMID 27129065. Phosphodiesterase inhibitors (e.g., sildenafil) can also improve [Raynaud's phenomenon] symptoms and ulcer healing
  30. Wang WH; Lai CS; Chang KP; et al. (October 2006). "Peripheral sympathectomy for Raynaud's phenomenon: a salvage procedure". The Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences. 22 (10): 491–9. doi:10.1016/S1607-551X(09)70343-2. PMID 17098681.
  31. Neumeister MW; Chambers CB; Herron MS; et al. (July 2009). "Botox therapy for ischemic digits". Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 124 (1): 191–201. doi:10.1097/PRS.0b013e3181a80576. PMID 19568080.
  32. Van Beek AL, Lim PK, Gear AJ, Pritzker MR (January 2007). "Management of vasospastic disorders with botulinum toxin A". Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 119 (1): 217–26. doi:10.1097/01.prs.0000244860.00674.57. PMID 17255677.
  33. "Raynaud Phenomenon: Practice Essentials, Pathophysiology, Etiology". 6 December 2017. Archived from the original on 11 October 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2018. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

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