Raynaud’s Phenomenon | Symptoms and Treatment | MedStar Health

Cold, numb skin caused by another medical condition

Raynaud’s (pronounced ray-NOSE) phenomenon, also known as secondary 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 phenomenon is a symptom of another condition or disease. It’s different from Raynaud’s disease, which occurs on its own.

Smoking, lupus, injuries to the hands or feet, and diseases of the body’s connective tissues can cause Raynaud’s phenomenon. The condition also may be linked to several diseases of the arteries, such as buildup of plaque in blood vessels to the heart (atherosclerosis) or high blood pressure in the arteries to the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). 

What are the symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon symptoms are triggered by spasms that cause the arteries in affected areas to narrow or close. These spasms limit blood flow to the area. You may experience:

  • Cold skin on the fingers or toes
  • Numb feeling in the affected area
  • Skin that becomes white or bluish when you’re cold or stressed
  • Reddened skin as feeling and warmth return, as well as a stinging or prickly feeling

Raynaud’s phenomenon most often affects the fingers and toes, but it can affect other areas of the body, such as the ears, nose, or lips. Severe cases of Raynaud’s phenomenon can lead to a permanent loss of circulation. This can cause several serious complications, such as sores or gangrene (dead tissue) in the affected areas.


Your doctor may take a sample of the skin at the base of your fingernails to examine the blood vessels under a microscope. This can help determine whether you have Raynaud’s phenomenon or Raynaud’s disease.

If you have Raynaud’s phenomenon, other tests can narrow down the underlying condition causing your symptoms.

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. 


For severe cases of Raynaud’s phenomenon, your doctor may prescribe medications, as well as other procedures, to improve circulation.

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