Raynaud’s phenomenon

What is Raynaud’s phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a recurrent temporary blood circulation disorder that affects the body’s extremities. It is characterized by contraction of the blood vessels, abruptly blocking the flow of blood.

This disorder mainly affects the small blood vessels in the hands and feet, and, more rarely, the ears and nose.

Phase 1 : white phase Phase 2 : blue phase Phase 3 : red phase

Raynaud’s phenomenon is more common in colder climates and is estimated to affect one in five people.

What causes Raynaud’s phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon is caused by the temporary contraction of certain small arteries that results in a sudden interruption of blood flow to the small capillaries located in the feet or hands. This temporary but abrupt decrease in blood circulation causes discomfort and a visible discolouration of the affected body parts.

What is Raynaud’s phenomenon?

The pain experienced during Raynaud’s phenomenon (faire un lien en surbrillance vers la section qui les présente) is often triggered by exposure to cold temperatures. For example, symptoms can occur when touching a cold object, when spending time outside in cold weather, or even in an air-conditioned space.

Symptoms can also be set off by a rapid change in temperature, by humidity or by strong emotions such as stress.

There are two types of Raynaud’s phenomenon:

  • Primary Raynaud’s phenomenon (also formerly called Raynaud’s disease)
    So named when it occurs on its own, with no other associated disease. It usually begins in adolescence, but it can also begin before the age of 40, and it affects women more frequently. This form of Raynaud’s accounts for nearly all cases (90%).
  • Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon (also known as Raynaud’s syndrome):
    This is the name given to the disorder when it is associated with another additional disease. This is the least common type (10% of cases) of Raynaud’s. When the disease occurs after the age of 40, it is more often combined with another disease and it is frequently associated with greater discomfort/pain.

Causes of secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon include:

  • Autoimmune diseases: Several autoimmune diseases can cause Raynaud’s phenomenon. The most common is systemic sclerosis (AKA scleroderma), and nearly all people with this disease develop Raynaud’s phenomenon. Raynaud’s phenomenon is also associated with systemic lupus erythematosus and dermatomyositis, which, along with systemic sclerosis, form a family of diseases called "connective tissue diseases (CTD)".
  • Medications: Several types of medications can cause blood vessels to constrict. Among the most commonly used medications that could cause or worsen Raynaud’s are the beta-blockers (used for heart disease and hypertension) and certain medications used to treat attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADHD).
  • Work-related causes: Raynaud’s phenomenon is recognized as an occupational disease in certain professions where workers’ hands (or parts of their hands) are exposed to repeated vibrations or shocks over extended periods of time.

  • Diseases of the arteries: atherosclerosis and vasculitis can also cause Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • Drugs: Certain drugs, especially stimulants (cocaine, amphetamines, etc.), as well as tobacco, can trigger or worsen Raynaud’s phenomenon, or even cause other potentially serious diseases that are accompanied by Raynaud’s phenomenon (e.g. Buerger’s disease).