Raynaud’s disease: when hands and feet get numb and change color in the cold

Raynaud’s phenomenon (also known as “Raynaud’s Disease”, “Raynaud’s syndrome” or simply “Raynaud’s”) is a disease that causes blood vessels in the hands and feet to contract in response to low temperatures or Stress, so the fingers and toes change color and are cold and numb. It is estimated that about 5% of Americans have Raynaud’s disease. Raynaud’s disease may be primary (the cause is unknown and the symptoms are generally mild) or secondary (when it occurs as a consequence of a medical problem or taking of certain medications; In this case, its symptoms are More worrying).

Raynaud disease

Symptoms of Raynaud’s disease

It’s normal for the blood vessels that are close to the skin to shrink when exposed to low temperatures but, when a patient has Raynaud’s disease, the vessels become too narrow and temporarily cut off the blood supply to the fingers and toes (it is rare that the nose, ears and nipples are also affected). In general, a Raynaud’s disease attack lasts two or three minutes, but in some cases it can last for hours.

The symptoms of Raynaud’s disease include the following:

  • Fingers, toes or other affected areas are cold and numb;
  • The affected areas change color and become white or blue and then resume their red color when the blood flow becomes normal;
  • The patient has a tingling or burning sensation when the blood flow to the affected areas resumes.


Although this rarely happens, Raynaud’s disease can cause skin lesions and gangrene in severe cases.

Causes of Raynaud’s disease

We don’t really know what causes primary Raynaud’s disease. The causes of secondary Raynaud’s disease include the following:

  • Some diseases, including scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, lupus, syndrome and thyroid disorders;
  • Repetitive actions like typing text on a keyboard, playing the piano and working with tools that vibrate like hammers and drills;
  • Frostbite;
  • Trauma to the hands or feet
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, including vinyl chloride and nicotine;
  • Some medications, including beta-blockers that are used to treat high blood pressure problems.


How to prevent Raynaud’s disease attacks

If you have Raynaud’s disease, there are steps you can take to prevent the onset of a crisis. Try the following:

  • dress warmly when you go out when it’s cold; protect your hands and feet with warm socks and warm gloves or mittens;
  • warm up your car before driving it in cold weather;
  • if stress triggers attacks, try using relaxation techniques to relieve stress;
  • dress warmly when you go to a place where there is air conditioning;
  • Exercise regularly to improve circulation in your extremities
  • If you are taking medicines that affect the blood circulation, ask your doctor if he or she can adjust the dosage or prescribe another medicine so that you do not have the symptoms of Raynaud’s disease.

Source: NHLBI (US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute), NHS UK (Public Health System UK), Mayo Clinic (University Hospital & Research Federation), MedicineNet (website which provides information on diseases, drugs and general health), WebMD (US company that provides health information services)

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