Diseases Home > Raynaud's Phenomenon

Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition that is characterized by the contraction of blood vessels in the extremities (fingers and toes). Raynaud's disease, the most common form of the disorder, is defined by episodic attacks that cause small blood vessels to constrict. Although there is no cure for the condition, treatment typically focuses on reducing the number and severity of attacks, as well as preventing tissue damage and loss.

What Is Raynaud's Phenomenon?

Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition that affects the blood vessels in the fingers, toes, ears, and nose. The most common form of Raynaud's phenomenon, Raynaud's disease, is characterized by episodic attacks, called vasospastic attacks, that cause the blood vessels in the digits (fingers and toes) to constrict (narrow). Raynaud's phenomenon can occur on its own, or it can be secondary to another condition, such as scleroderma or lupus.

How Common Is It?

Although estimates vary, recent surveys show that Raynaud's phenomenon may affect 5 to 10 percent of the general population in the United States. Women are more likely than men to have the disorder. Raynaud's phenomenon appears to be more common in people who live in colder climates. However, people with Raynaud's who live in milder climates may have more attacks during periods of colder weather.

Different Types of Raynaud's Phenomenon

Doctors classify Raynaud's phenomenon as either:
  • Primary Raynaud's phenomenon
  • Secondary Raynaud's phenomenon.
In medical literature, "primary Raynaud's phenomenon" may also be called Raynaud's disease, idiopathic Raynaud's phenomenon, or primary Raynaud's syndrome. The terms "idiopathic" and "primary" both mean that the cause is unknown.
Most people who have Raynaud's phenomenon have the primary form (the milder version).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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