Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition where blood vessels in the fingers and
toes (and sometimes in the earlobes, nose, and lips) constrict. It is usually
triggered by cold or by emotional stress. Episodes are intermittent and may last
minutes or hours. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of the U.S. population is
affected, and women are affected five times more often than men. It usually
occurs between the ages of 20 and 40 in women and later in life in
Signs and Symptoms
Changes in skin color in the fingers or toes and sometimes in the
nose, legs, or earlobes (may occur in three phases: white, blue, then
Throbbing, tingling, numbness, and pain
Deterioration of the pads on fingertips or toes
Gangrenous ulcers near
What Causes It?
Risk factors for Raynaud's phenomenon include the following.
Age in women (onset primarily between the ages of 20 and
Occupation (for example, using vibrating tools such as chain saws and
Drug use, including some cancer drugs, narcotics, and
over-the-counter cold medications
Electric shock injury
Repetitive physical stress (for example, typing or playing the
Primary pulmonary hypertension
Exposure to cold
General medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma,
systemic lupus erythematosus, and carpal tunnel
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Your health care provider may conduct several laboratory tests, such as the
antinuclear antibody test, to look for antibodies associated with connective
tissue disease or other autoimmune disorders. If you have Raynaud's phenomenon,
your provider will most likely begin with a conservative approach involving
nondrug and self-help measures (for example, dressing warmly, avoiding the cold,
One of the most important preventive measures you can take is to stop smoking
because nicotine shrinks arteries and decreases blood flow. Other preventive
measures include the following.
Protecting yourself from cold, especially outdoors in the
Guarding against cuts and other injuries to affected areas
Exercising, such as raising your arms above your head and then
whirling them vigorously, to increase circulation
Several types of drugs are used to treat Raynaud's phenomenon.
Calcium-channel blockers can reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.
Vasodilators (drugs that open up blood vessels) are also
If attacks become extremely frequent and severe and interfere with your
well-being and ability to work or function, a surgical procedure called
sympathectomy may be used. This surgery becomes less effective as the disease
Complementary and Alternative
Vitamin E (400 to 800 IU per day) improves circulation and helps
certain blood cells function well.
Vitamin C (1,000 mg two to three times per day) supports connective
tissue and reduces swelling.
B-complex (50 to 100 mg per day) reduces stress.
Coenzyme Q10 (100 mg two times per day) promotes healthy
Calcium (1,500 mg per day) and magnesium (200 mg three times per day)
Omega-3 oils (1,500 mg two to three times per day) reduce swelling
and help certain blood cells function well.
Zinc (30 to 50 mg per day) boosts your immune
Herbs are generally a safe way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As
with any therapy, it is important to work with your provider on getting your
problem diagnosed before you start any treatment. Herbs may be used as dried
extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or
tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made
with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or
flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Tinctures
may be used singly or in combination as noted. The following herbs are
circulatory stimulants with other properties as well. Use one or more tinctures
in combination. Take 20 to 30 drops two times per day.
Hawthorn berries (Crataegus laevigata) strengthens and mildly
dilates blood vessels
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) (120 to 160 mg per day for dried
extracts) keeps blood cells from sticking together
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a gentle
Ginger root (Zingiber officianale) is a mild soothing
Prickly ash bark (Xanthoxylum clava-herculis) enhances lymph
activity and integrity of blood vessels
Homeopathy may be useful as a supportive therapy.
Acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct
Most milder cases can be brought under control through self-help
Many drugs used to treat Raynaud's phenomenon can affect a growing fetus and
should not be used by pregnant women.
Balch JF, Balch PA. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 2nd ed.
Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group; 1997.
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Dahlia Hirsch, MD, Center for
Holistic Healing, BelAir, MD; Richard A. Lippin, MD, President, The Lippin
Group, Southampton, PA; Leonard Wisneski, MD, FACP, George Washington
University, Rockville, MD.
The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of
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of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage
to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or
otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents
of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds
currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a
guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information
provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare
practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts)
regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed