Raynaud’s disease

Last updated:

Reviewed by:

Dr Bryony Henderson

, Lead GP at Livi

Medically reviewed

Raynaud’s disease is a condition that affects circulation in areas such as your fingers and toes. It’s most noticeable in the winter months when temperatures become generally colder but it can also happen when you are anxious. Read on for advice on managing this condition.

What is Raynaud’s disease?

Raynaud’s disease, sometimes called Raynaud’s phenomenon or Raynaud’s syndrome, affects your blood circulation.

The condition is caused by an issue in your body’s response to cold temperatures, and causes your hands and feet to change colour and become painful. Stress and anxiety can also trigger symptoms although this is less common.

The body’s normal response to cold is for your blood vessels to narrow and reduce the heat you lose through your vessels.

For someone with Raynaud's disease, this narrowing is more severe and can prevent enough blood getting to your fingers or toes. The reduction in blood flow can make your hands and feet change colour. This change in colour is often called Raynaud’s gloves and socks.

What are the symptoms of Raynaud’s disease?

Symptoms of Raynaud’s disease vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms to affect different areas of the body are:

  • Coldness

  • Pain or discomfort

  • Numbness

  • Pins and needles

  • Change in skin colour – usually white or blue

  • Difficulty moving the area

While the most commonly affected area is hands and feed, some people find their nose, ears and lips are also affected.

Some people with Raynaud’s have also reported feeling fatigued, but research needs to happen in this area to find out why.

How common is Raynaud’s disease?

Raynaud’s disease is very common and is usually nothing severe. However, sometimes the symptoms could be caused by another underlying disease, so if you’re concerned, speak to a doctor.

How long does Raynaud’s disease last?

Raynaud’s symptoms usually last between minutes and hours before returning back to normal.

What causes Raynaud’s disease?

Scientists don’t yet know what triggers blood vessels to overreact in this way. However the key triggers are:

  • Cold temperatures

  • Stress

  • Anxiety

In the majority of cases, the diagnosis is called primary Raynaud's disease, which means that there’s no underlying cause. In some patients, it can be associated with other conditions such as Sjogrens syndrome or SLE, and this is termed secondary Raynaud's disease.

Can children get Raynaud’s disease?

Raynaud’s disease can affect children but it’s generally more common in adults. People are most likely to first get symptoms in their teenage years.

How is Raynaud’s disease diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose Raynaud’s disease by asking you a few questions about your symptoms. If you are diagnosed, a doctor may run a few blood tests to rule out secondary Raynaud's syndrome.

How is Raynaud’s disease treated?

While there are medications that can help, most people find that managing their symptoms and adopting lifestyle choices that help to maintain a healthy blood flow can be effective, including:

  • Keeping warm by wearing gloves and thick socks

  • Eating a healthy diet

  • Stopping smoking

  • Managing stress

  • Exercising regularly

If your condition is severe, a doctor can offer medication, such as nifedipine, to improve blood flow to your extremities.

When should I speak to a doctor about Raynaud’s disease?

If you have symptoms of Raynaud’s disease and are concerned, book an appointment with a doctor. They can help investigate any underlying cause and talk to you about the best possible management.

How can Livi help?

A Livi doctor can talk to you about your symptoms and give you advice on the next best steps.

Last updated:
Reviewed by:
Dr Bryony Henderson, Lead GP at Livi