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.
- Cigarette smoking
- 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
- Previous frostbite
- Repetitive physical stress (for example, typing or playing the
- Primary pulmonary hypertension
- Exposure to cold
- Psychological stress
- 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.
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Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group; 1997.
Batchelder HJ. Allopathic specific condition review: Raynaud's disease.
Protocol J Botan Med. 1996;2:134-137.
Fauci AS, Braunwald E, Isselbacher KJ, et al., eds. Harrison's Principles
of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1998.
Mitchell W, Batchelder HJ. Naturopathic specific condition review: Raynaud's
disease. Protocol J Botan Med. 1996;2:138-140.
Tierney LM Jr, McPhee SJ, Papadakis MA, eds. Current Medical Diagnosis
& Treatment 1999. 38th ed. Stamford, Conn: Appleton & Lange;
|Review Date: August 1999|
|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.|
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