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Raynaud's Phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition in which the fingers, and sometimes toes, turn blue, white, and red. The disease is likely due to blood vessel spasm that decreases blood flow to the fingers and toes in cold temperatures or during times of stress. Raynaud’s can also lead to swelling, numbness, pain, skin ulcers, and gangrene of the fingers and toes. Primary Raynaud’s is the most common form of the condition and has no associated medical conditions. Secondary Raynaud’s is less common, associated with underlying disease, and is usually more severe.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose Raynaud’s phenomenon, health care providers take a detailed medical history and perform a physical examination. They may also order tests to rule out other medical conditions that cause similar signs and symptoms or to test for an underlying medical condition associated with secondary Raynaud’s. At this time there is no single test to diagnose Raynaud’s phenomenon.

The goal of treating Raynaud’s phenomenon is to reduce the number and severity of attacks, prevent tissue damage, and treat underlying conditions. For mild symptoms, prevention, such as dressing in warm layers and controlling stress, is typically adequate. For more severe symptoms, there are medications that help open the blood vessels and improve circulation. For severe cases that do not improve with prevention and medication, surgery may be performed.