- Raynaud Phenomenon / Syndrome / Disease
- What causes Raynaud phenomenon?
- What are the signs you may have Raynaud phenomenon?
- Risk factors for Raynaud phenomenon and potential complications
- Diagnosing Raynaud phenomenon
- Treating Raynaud phenomenon
- Living with Raynaud phenomenon
- Raynaud phenomenon FAQs
What are the signs you may have Raynaud phenomenon?
Signs and symptoms
- Three-phase discolouration (white, blue, red)
- Sensation changes (numbness, ice cold, pain and tingling / stinging / prickling) – these may be mild or severe
- A little swelling (as circulation is being restored)
During a vasospasm, colour and sensation (or lack of) are the primary characteristic symptoms of Raynaud's, mainly affecting the hands, feet, fingers and toes. For the majority, symptoms affect the hands and fingers only. Up to 40% of those with the condition will experience symptoms in the feet and toes, as well as the hands. In some instances, the nose and ears, and even the lips or nipples can experience symptoms too (this is rare).
Those with primary Raynaud phenomenon may note that an attack affects the same fingers and toes, often at the same time, on both sides of the body. Secondary Raynaud phenomenon attacks may affect one or both sides (hands and feet, fingers and toes). Vasospasm attacks are not necessarily all that predictable, however, even in the same person. Episodic attacks may vary with each occurrence and not everyone will experience all three discolouration stages (some may experience white and then red for instance). Mild or brief temperature changes can bring on a vasospasm attack, but most will experience symptoms when exposed to temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). (2)
A vasospasm attack can happen daily or even weekly, usually beginning with one finger or toe, and then gradually affecting other portions of the hands or feet. Attacks are not always a predictable pattern, however. Sometimes, only one finger or toe is affected at a time.
At the tail end of a vasospasm, affected areas may begin to throb a little as the red ‘flushed’ colour appears. At this stage, the body is beginning a re-warming process as circulation restores and it can take at least 15 minutes or more for warm sensations to return (blood flow remains low for a short period until the skin gradually rewarms) as blood flow to the skin returns to normal. One attack can take a few minutes, while others may last a little longer (up to an hour or so).
If Raynaud phenomenon is suspected or a sore or infection appears to occur in the fingers or toes, it is best to consult a medical doctor for a thorough assessment. If there is an underlying condition of a rheumatic nature, it is wise to have this diagnosed and sufficiently treated in order to alleviate risk of long-term complications or ailments.
2. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. October 2016. Questions and Answers about Raynaud’s Phenomenon: https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Raynauds_Phenomenon/default.asp [Accessed 04.08.2017]