Raynaud's Disease | MedStar Health

Cold, numb skin on the fingers and toes

Raynaud’s (pronounced ray-NOSE) disease, also known as primary Raynaud’s, affects the small arteries that bring blood to the skin in various areas of the body. These arteries tighten or close in cold temperatures or when a person is stressed.

Raynaud’s disease occurs on its own. It’s different from Raynaud’s phenomenon, or secondary Raynaud’s, which is caused by other medical problems. Raynaud’s disease is the more common of the two conditions.

In rare cases, severe Raynaud’s disease can lead to permanently lost circulation to affected areas. Our Vascular and Endovascular program is a recognized leader in the mid-Atlantic region in all aspects of treating conditions that affect the blood vessels.

What are the symptoms of Raynaud's disease?

Raynaud’s disease symptoms depend on the spasms that cause the arteries of the skin to close, called vasospasms. These symptoms can include:

  • Cold fingers or toes
  • Numbness in the affected area
  • Skin that changes to a white or bluish color when you’re cold or stressed
  • Stinging or prickly feeling as the skin gets warmer or stress is relieved, as well as reddened skin as feeling and warmth return

Though Raynaud’s disease most often affects the fingers and toes, it also can affect other areas of the body, such as the ears, nose, or lips.


In addition to a complete physical exam, your doctor may examine the skin at the base of your fingernails under a microscope to look for anything unusual with the blood vessels. This can help determine whether you have Raynaud’s disease or Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Angiogram (Angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.

Arterial Duplex Ultrasound for Arms and Legs

Arterial duplex ultrasound uses Doppler and traditional ultrasound to assess blood flow in the arteries of your arms and legs.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Pulse Volume Recording

Pulse volume recording tests are used to evaluate blood flow through the arteries in your arms or legs.


Keeping your hands and feet warm during a Raynaud’s attack usually is enough to manage the condition. For more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe medications to improve circulation, as well as other treatments.

Vascular Disease Treatments

Vascular disease treatments address conditions that affect the blood vessels, which can cause blood flow to become decreased, interrupted, or slowed.

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net. If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.