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Raynaud's Disease

What is Raynaud’s disease?

Raynaud's is a condition that causes your hands and feet to overreact to cold. They may become painful and numb, and they can change colors, becoming very pale and then blue. This condition also is called Raynaud's phenomenon. There are two kinds of Raynaud's. Primary Raynaud's, also known as Raynaud's disease, happens by itself and is the most common form. Secondary Raynaud's, also called Raynaud's syndrome, happens as part of another disease.

In Raynaud's, the small vessels that bring blood to the skin either become narrow, or constrict for a short period of time. This limits blood flow to the hands and feet and sometimes to the nose or ears. Your hands and feet feel cold and numb and then turn very pale. As blood flow returns, your fingers and toes may turn red, and begin to throb and hurt. Raynaud's can be painful and annoying, but it usually does not cause serious problems.

You can take simple steps to protect your hands and feet from the cold. If you have a bad case of Raynaud's and you cannot keep your hands and feet warm enough, your doctor may prescribe medicine.

How is Raynaud's disease treated?

If you have Raynaud's that is caused by another disease, your doctor can treat that disease. This may relieve your symptoms.

There is no cure for Raynaud's that occurs on its own (primary Raynaud's). But you may be able to control it by avoiding the things that trigger it.

  • Keep your body warm.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Avoid caffeine and certain medicines, including cold medicines with pseudoephedrine and beta-blockers. (Don't stop taking prescribed medicines unless you talk to your doctor first.)
  • Reduce stress.

If you can't control your symptoms with these steps, your doctor may give you medicine such as calcium channel blockers. This may increase blood flow to your hands and feet and relieve symptoms.

Some alternative treatments, such as herbal supplements and biofeedback training, have shown promise in treating Raynaud's. But they haven't been shown to work for everyone. Talk with your doctor if you're interested in trying any of these.