Symptoms and Causes of Raynaud’s Disease

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Raynaud’s disease is a type of disorder that affects the fingers and toes. These parts of the body will feel numb, cold and turn white in response to stress or cold temperatures. Raynaud’s disease is caused by smaller than usual arteries in the toes and feet. Because the arteries are small, the affected areas get limited blood supply. This condition is called vasospasm. The toes and fingers go into a vasospasm when exposed to the cold or stress. Over time, the smaller arteries will thicken slightly. This limits the blood flow even more.

Although health experts are unsure what causes the condition, likely triggers include a sudden drop in temperature. For instance, putting your hands on cold water or touching a freezer could trigger an episode. Emotional stress is another trigger.

Signs and Symptoms

Telltale signs of Raynaud’s disease includes cold toes or fingers. The skin color of the affected area also changes. A numb prickly feeling or stinging pain could also point to Raynaud’s disease. In some cases, the stinging feeling is followed up by warming of the affected area.

Types of Raynaud’s Disease

Raynaud’s disease is categorized into two types: Primary and Secondary Raynaud’s disease. Primary Raynaud’s disease is the more common of the two. The symptoms aren’t triggered by any underlying conditions associated with vasospasm. On the other hand, the secondary Raynaud’s disease is called Raynaud’s phenomenon. This condition is triggered by an underlying medical condition. Although less common, Raynaud’s phenomenon appears later in life.

Causes of Raynaud’s Phenomenon

There are many medical conditions that could cause Raynaud’s phenomenon. These conditions include:

Connective Tissue Disease

Scleroderma is a type of skin disease that cause Raynaud’s phenomenon. This is a rare condition that occurs when the skin is hardened and scarred. Other connective tissue diseases that cause Raynaud’s phenomenon includes arthritis, lupus, and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Artery Diseases

One of the most common causes of Raynaud’s phenomenon is damaged arteries. That’s why the disorder is associated with certain types of artery disorders including atherosclerosis or Buerger’s disease. Atherosclerosis is a condition wherein the blood vessel plaques go to the heart. Buerger’s disease occurs when the blood vessels in the feet and finger become inflamed. Primary pulmonary hypertension also causes Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

When major nerves in the hands become inflamed, it becomes numb or painful. This condition is caused by repetitive vibration or action. Doing the same movements for long periods could strain the nerves in the hands. The hand also becomes vulnerable to the cold. Those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome could also experience episodes of Raynaud’s phenomenon.


Raynaud’s phenomenon can be triggered by injuries in the affected area. Frostbite, wrist fracture or surgery could trigger symptoms associated with Raynaud’s disease. Certain medication could also trigger this condition. Beta-blockers – drugs used to treat high blood pressure – could cause hypersensitivity to the cold. The same thing goes for migraine meds or chemotherapy drugs. These drugs constrict the blood vessels, causing numbness in the feet and hands.

Treatments for Raynaud’s Disease

Treatment for Raynaud’s disease includes calcium channel blockers, alpha-blockers, and vasodilators. The medication will depend on the severity of the symptoms.

Calcium channel blockers are often used to open the arteries in the affected area. If the condition is triggered by a hormone called norepinephrine, your doctor will prescribe alpha blockers. Vasodilators such as antidepressants or meds that lower blood pressure also helps relax and open constricted nerves.

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