Raynaud’s phenomenon (also known as Raynaud’s syndrome, Raynaud’s disease or just Raynaud’s) is a common condition that affects the blood supply to certain parts of the body – usually the fingers and toes. Other parts of the body that can be affected by Raynaud’s include the ears, nose, nipples and lips.
Why does it happen?
Usually triggered by cold temperatures, anxiety or stress, the condition occurs as a result of your blood vessels going into a temporary spasm, blocking the blood flow. This results in the affected area changing colour from white to blue and then red, as the blood begins flowing back. Sufferers can also experience pain, numbness, and pins and needles.
Symptoms can last from a few minutes to several hours, depending on external triggers. Although it’s not a serious threat to your health, it can be annoying to live with as it sometimes restricts the use of your fingers. People with Raynaud’s often go for long periods without any symptoms, and sometimes the condition goes away altogether.
It’s usually possible for a Raynaud’s sufferer to control symptoms by avoiding the cold, wearing warm gloves and trying to relax at stressful times. It’s a good idea to stop smoking as that can affect your circulation.
If you’re unable to control your symptoms yourself, then your GP may prescribe medication like Nifedipine.
Types of Raynaud’s
There are two types of Raynaud’s:
• primary – when the condition develops by itself (this is the most common type)
• secondary – when it’s caused by another health condition.
Most cases of secondary Raynaud’s are associated with conditions that cause the immune system to attack healthy tissue (autoimmune conditions), such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
The causes of primary Raynaud’s are unclear. However 1 in 10 people with primary Raynaud’s goes on to develop a condition associated with secondary Raynaud’s, such as lupus.
Your GP can help to determine whether you have primary or secondary Raynaud’s by examining your symptoms and carrying out blood tests.
Who gets Raynaud’s?
Raynaud’s phenomenon affects up to 20% of the adult population worldwide. There may be as many as 10 million people with the condition in the UK. Whilst primary Raynaud’s usually begins in your 20s or 30s, secondary Raynaud’s can develop at any age, depending on the cause.
It is slightly more common in women than men and can affect anyone of any age, including babies and children.