Recent Blog Articles
Nicotine addiction explained — and how medications can help
Is your vision impaired? Tips to cope
Misgendering: What it is and why it matters
Healthy brain, healthier heart?
Stories connect us
Wondering about a headline-grabbing drug? Read on
Respiratory virus cases tick upward: What parents should know
Hope: Why it matters
Will new guidelines for heart failure affect you?
Want probiotics but dislike yogurt? Try these foods
Welcome to the Raynaud's Decision Guide.
We're sorry to hear you have Raynaud's!
The goal of this guide is to provide information while awaiting evaluation with your doctor, or additional information after you have seen him or her. Please keep in mind that this guide is not intended to replace a face-to-face evaluation with your doctor. The diagnoses provided are among the most common that could explain your symptoms, but the list is not exhaustive and there are many other possibilities. In addition, more than one condition may be present at the same time. For example, a person with Raynaud's could also have osteoarthritis that is unrelated.
This guide is intended for persons who have Raynaud's -- you may hear it called Raynaud's phenomenon, disease, or syndrome. Whatever the name, the basic problem in this condition is vasospasm -- that is, a blood vessel (the "vaso" part) suddenly constricts (the "spasm" part), usually after exposure to cold. Then, not enough blood can flow to the finger, toe or whatever part is affected. This is an exaggeration of the normal behavior of blood vessels. Tiny nerves tell the artery to open or close, depending on the situation. Usually with cold exposure, blood vessels constrict, or close a bit, to conserve heat, but for people with Raynaud's, that mechanism is overactive. The cause is not known. People with Raynaud's notice intensely cold fingers or toes, numbness, pain, and a color change -- typically from white to blue to red, and, eventually, back to normal, over a number of minutes.
Most people with Raynaud's (up to 90 percent or more) are otherwise healthy and have no other medical conditions. Raynaud's is quite common -- up to ten percent of healthy young women report symptoms suggestive of Raynaud's. The associated conditions, on the other hand, are rather rare, and include lupus, scleroderma and CREST syndrome, among others. There will be an opportunity to learn more about these conditions at the end of this guide.
Now, let's move on to the specifics of your situation.
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.