7 Symptoms of Raynaud’s Disease

Raynaud’s disease, also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon or syndrome, is a fairly rare condition that affects about 200,000 people in the United States. This disease of the blood vessels causes the fingers and toes to become sensitive to cold and numb in response to stress or cold temperatures. With this condition, the arteries that supply blood to the skin become narrow to limit blood circulation to certain areas. When the blood vessels narrow, they can nearly shut down completely. This can cause pain in addition to numbness and sensitivity. When the blood vessels narrow, the fingers and toes can turn blue and white.

Raynaud’s syndrome commonly overlaps with lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s tissues. Raynaud’s comes in two forms: primary, which usually happens on its own with an unknown cause and secondary, which can be the result of injury or another disease. The condition is more common in women, especially those with a family history of Raynaud’s. People who live in cold climates also have a higher risk of developing Raynaud’s. Fortunately, Raynaud’s can be managed with treatment once diagnosed. Typical treatment includes medication that keeps blood vessels open and keeping the feet and hands warm in the winter.

1. Sensitivity to Cold

People with Raynaud’s disease have an extreme sensitivity to cold. This is one of the primary signs of Raynaud’s disease, as cold temperatures can cause a flare-up in symptoms. Normal blood vessels in the skin always contract and reduce blood flow during the cold, which is the body’s way of concentrating warmth in the body. In Raynaud’s, the blood vessels constrict almost completely and cause almost total lack of blood supply. Even indoor air conditioning can be enough to cause this lack of blood flow that may be painful and cause numbness and skin changes.

This sensitivity to cold is often painful or uncomfortable and requires changes to lifestyle to reduce exposure to stress and cold. Because the sensitivity to cold can be very severe, people with Raynaud’s should keep their feet and hands warm at all times. This may require wearing gloves while shopping in a store with air conditioning, for example. For people with severe symptoms or symptoms that get triggered easily by the cold, battery-heated socks and gloves or portable heat packs can be helpful. The good news is these attacks or flare-ups can be prevented and do not need to impact life dramatically for many people. Most people have mild symptoms of Reynaud’s syndrome that can be managed with these steps without the need for medication.