Published on May 10, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on May 25, 2024 at 8:00

Raynaud's disease is a blood circulation disorder that mainly affects the fingers and toes. It can also affect other parts of the body, such as the nose and ears.

Main symptoms:

  • Cold, pale, or bluish fingers and toes
  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes
  • Pain and, in rare cases, skin ulcers

Episodes can last from several minutes to several hours.

Symptoms go away about 15 to 20 minutes after the trigger is removed.

Causes and triggers

When we're exposed to cold or experience emotional stress or excitement, our blood vessels constrict. In individuals with Raynaud's disease, the blood vessels constrict more than they should, interrupting normal blood flow. This results in the symptoms mentioned above.

There are 2 types of Raynaud's disease. They are sometimes referred to as Raynaud's syndrome or Raynaud's phenomenon:

Primary Raynaud's:

  • Unknown cause
  • Mainly affects the following populations:
    • Women aged 15 to 40
    • People living in cold climates
    • People with a family member who has Raynaud's disease
  • Most common form of Raynaud's disease

Secondary Raynaud's:

  • Develops because of another issue
  • Can be caused by the following:
    • Another health condition (e.g., atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, Sjögren's syndrome)
    • A side effect of a drug or other substance
    • Repetitive actions, particularly if they involve vibration
  • Similar symptoms to primary Raynaud's, but may be more severe


You can reduce the frequency of episodes by taking the following measures:

  • Protect yourself from the cold (e.g., wear mittens or gloves, socks, a scarf, a hat).
  • Avoid stress as much as possible; it may help to do relaxation exercises.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that contain caffeine.
  • Avoid using certain over-the-counter medications (e.g., decongestants), as they can cause blood vessel constriction and aggravate symptoms. Ask your pharmacist for advice.

In some cases, medication may be required to prevent future episodes. In addition, when Raynaud's is caused by another problem, it's important to treat the underlying issue.

When an episode occurs, treatment consists in warming the affected area (e.g., soaking your hands in warm water or moving to a warmer location). Once blood flow is back to normal, the skin will return to its usual colour and may swell. A tingling sensation may also occur.

When should I see a health care professional?

Contact your health care provider immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Sores on your fingers or toes
  • An infection in the affected area
  • Any other symptoms that appear to be severe

For more information:

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