What are the risk factors for Raynaud’s phenomenon?
Raynaud’s phenomenon that is not associated with any other disease (also called primary RP) often starts between the ages of 15 and 30 years old. It is more common in women and it can occur in multiple members of the same family. RP that is associated with inflammatory arthritis or a connective tissue disease can occur at older ages.
Primary Raynaud's, where there is no known associated disease, is the most common form.
Secondary Raynaud’s is associated with diseases that affect the blood vessels, including a number of different types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), scleroderma, lupus or Sjogren’s syndrome. It can also follow repeated trauma to an area, particularly vibrations such as using a jack hammer repeatedly. Smoking may be a risk factor as well.
What are the warning signs of Raynaud’s phenomenon?
If you notice that your fingers or toes (or rarely nose or ears) become white when you are cold or emotionally upset, you probably have Raynaud's. It is common in those who suffer from one of several types of arthritis but it also occurs in people who have not been diagnosed with any form of arthritis.
In some people with secondary Raynaud’s (especially those with scleroderma), painful sores (ulcers) appear on the tips of the fingers or toes when blood flow is permanently reduced.
How is Raynaud’s phenomenon diagnosed?
Your doctor may be able to diagnose Raynaud's based on a review of your medical history (white fingers and toes) and by observing the effect of cold on your fingers and toes. Sometimes your doctor may order certain tests, such as blood flow tests, to help confirm the diagnosis.
How common is Raynaud’s phenomenon?
Overall, Raynaud’s phenomenon occurs in 5-20% of females and 4-14% of males in the general population.
- Primary Raynaud’s occurs in 3% of the population
- Secondary Raynaud’s is less common, but occurs at relatively high levels in people with lupus (25%), Sjogren’s syndrome (33%) and nearly everyone with scleroderma
Most people with Raynaud’s will not need treatment. They should stay warm (use proper mittens, wear a hat, avoid cold and dampness of their hands and feet). If they smoke, they should discontinue smoking as it make the symptoms worse.
Medications that open the blood vessels (called vasodilators) are sometimes used to improve the circulation. Some people with secondary Raynaud’s may need other types of medication.
Treatment varies from person to person, so speak with your doctor and/or pharmacist about what kind of medications are most appropriate for you.
Only rarely do people with Raynaud’s phenomenon need surgery.
Although there is no cure for Raynaud's phenomenon there are things you can do to help manage the condition. Your active involvement in developing your prescribed treatment plan is essential.
Protect your body
Protect your body, especially your hands, feet and head, by wearing gloves and warm socks and a hat in cold weather. If reaching into the freezer for food triggers Raynaud's phenomenon try wearing gloves or oven mitts during this activity.
If you smoke, stop smoking. Smoking triggers vasospasms in your whole body and will worsen the symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon.
Avoid drinks that contain caffeine (coffee, tea, colas) as caffeine can make your symptoms worse.
When you are emotionally upset, your nervous system triggers the clamping down of your blood vessels, which blocks your blood flow. Developing good relaxation and coping skills can give you a greater feeling of control and a more positive outlook.
Living well with arthritis
There is a lot you can do to take control and actively manage your arthritis. Below we have listed a few resources to help you learn more about actively managing your arthritis to live better.
To find health & wellness advice, self-management tips, inspirational stories, and much more.
Our online courses are jam-packed with helpful tips and information. Each course is devoted to a specific issue or symptom linked to arthritis.
Discover Arthritis Courses
Workshops and Webinars
Learn about upcoming educational events and webinars.
Find Workshops and Webinars
Navigating Through Arthritis
Learn about information and services available.
Navigate through arthritis