Raynaud 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.
Raynaud phenomenon is called "primary" when it is not linked to another disorder. It most often begins in women younger than age 30. Secondary Raynaud phenomenon is linked to other conditions and usually occurs in people who are over age 30.
Common causes of secondary Raynaud phenomenon are:
Exposure to the cold or strong emotions bring on the changes.
People with primary Raynaud phenomenon have problems in the same fingers on both sides. Most people do not have much pain.
People with secondary Raynaud phenomenon are more likely to have pain or tingling in the fingers. The pain is rarely severe. However, painful ulcers may form on the affected fingers if the attacks are very bad.
Your health care provider can often discover the condition causing Raynaud phenomenon by asking you questions and doing a physical exam.
Tests that may be done to confirm the diagnosis include:
Taking these steps may help control Raynaud phenomenon:
Your 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 phenomenon.
The outcome varies. It depends on the cause of the problem and how bad it is.
Complications may include:
Call your provider if:
Bakst R, Merola JF, Franks AG Jr, Sanchez M. Raynaud's phenomenon: pathogenesis and management. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;59(4):633-53. PMID: 18656283
Herrick AL. Contemporary management of Raynaud's phenomenon and digital ischaemic complications. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2011;23(6):555-61. PMID: 21885977
James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Cutaneous vascular diseases. In: James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 35.
Spencer-Green G. Outcomes in primary Raynaud phenomenon: a meta-analysis of the frequency, rates, and predictors of transition to secondary diseases. Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(6):595-600. PMID: 9521223
Swanson KE, Bartholomew JR, Paulson R. Hypothenar hammer syndrome: a case and brief review. Vasc Med. 2012;17(2):108-15. PMID: 22169157
Last reviewed on: 4/28/2015
Reviewed by: Gordon A. Starkebaum, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.