Recent Blog Articles
Pouring from an empty cup? Three ways to refill emotionally
Give praise to the elbow: A bending, twisting marvel
Sneezy and dopey? Seasonal allergies and your brain
The FDA relaxes restrictions on blood donation
Apps to accelerometers: Can technology improve mental health in older adults?
Swimming and skin: What to know if a child has eczema
A muscle-building obsession in boys: What to know and do
Natural disasters strike everywhere: Ways to help protect your health
Dementia: Coping with common, sometimes distressing behaviors
Screening tests may save lives — so when is it time to stop?
Diseases & Conditions
Numb fingers? Icy toes? It may be Raynauds.
Raynaud's phenomenon—an extreme reaction to cold—can be annoying, or it may signal a serious chronic condition.
If you live in the northern latitudes, you may have already had an episode in which your fingers froze or your nose, toes, or earlobes grew cold, pale, and numb. And if you're a southerner, you might have neighbors who migrated to avoid such episodes. While some people with chilly fingers just have cold sensitivity, others—especially women—may have Raynaud's phenomenon.
What is Raynaud's?
Two forms of Raynaud's
Primary Raynaud's phenomenon, which has no known cause, is much more common in women than in men and often begins in adolescence. Although it can be annoying and even painful, it usually doesn't require medical attention.
Secondary Raynaud's phenomenon occurs later in life in people who have injuries from operating vibrating tools or who have autoimmune disorders that affect connective tissue, such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus. These conditions can damage blood vessels and change their response to cold or stress. If you develop Raynaud's later in life, you should get a medical evaluation to determine whether you have secondary Raynaud's and, possibly, another underlying condition that warrants treatment.
Living with Raynaud's
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.
Free Healthbeat Signup
Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!