5 Things to Know About Raynaud’s Disease

Adverse and extreme weather can cause a variety of health problems to worsen, including the common but not well understood Raynaud’s disease. Here’s a brief overview of this health problem and some reasons why climate change might worsen the condition.

1. What is Raynaud’s Disease?

Called Raynaud’s disease, Raynaud’s syndrome or Raynaud’s phenomenon, this condition is characterized by numbness or burning in the extremities — usually the fingers or toes. The skin in these areas may take on a pale color, or it may look purplish and bruised. When a person is then exposed to warmth, the previously numb extremities will flush red with the potential for swelling.

This happens when cold weather prompts blood vessel constriction, creating a barrier to good circulation. When then exposed to heat, circulation resumes but this can result in swelling, particularly around the joints.

Most people experience only mild symptoms, and the condition is often ignored by many sufferers. However, some experience debilitating pain, as well as blistering and swelling, that may require medication. Raynaud’s can also be a sign of an underlying condition like arthritis, so regardless of whether you would characterize symptoms as “severe” or “mild,” it’s always best to consult a doctor.

2. Who Gets Raynaud’s?

Raynaud’s appears to impact women more than men. As this condition is triggered by cold temperatures, people living in colder climates are more likely to be at risk.

It’s thought that as many as five to 10 percent of the American population has the condition, though many people will not be diagnosed because their symptoms are mild.

Raynaud’s can occur on its own, often called primary Raynaud’s. As noted above, though, Raynaud’s can be a feature of other diseases. When this is the case, the condition is known as secondary Raynaud’s.

If you are over thirty and experience Raynaud’s for the first time, it may be a sign of an underlying condition, so bringing this to your doctor’s attention is a good idea. Obviously, if symptoms like discoloration are evident, diagnosis can be easy.

If those symptoms are not apparent, a painless and non-invasive capillaroscopy test can be used to diagnose Raynaud’s.

3. Raynaud’s and Mental Health

There appears to be a link between mental health conditions, like depression, and Raynaud’s.

The reasons behind this overlap are not fully understood: For example, does Raynaud’s, a blood vessel disorder, share underlying physiological traits that predispose people to certain mental health problems?

No matter the answer, we already know that our emotional states can change how our bodies function. For instance, stress is known to trigger changes in heart rate and circulation. This could be one of the reasons why depression, anxiety and other stress disorders seem to trigger Raynaud’s symptoms.

And this leads neatly into our next category.

4. What are the Treatments for Raynaud’s?

Given what we know about the overlap between Raynaud’s and mental health, one of the key methods of reducing the condition’s flare-ups is stress management. This can improve circulation and stop a common compound effect: anxiety from Raynaud’s symptoms that perpetuates the condition.

Other recommended strategies include reducing caffeine intake, avoiding cigarettes, exercising regularly and avoiding cold environments by wearing appropriate clothing.

If symptoms are particularly bad or appear to be worsening, a range of medications can be prescribed to help alleviate the condition. These include alpha-1 blockers, topical ointments and blood vessel medications. Prozac, for instance, may be used to treat Raynaud’s and depression.

Raynaud’s is considered a long-term condition, but with proper management sufferers may be able to reduce the frequency and intensity of their symptoms.

5. Unexpected Summer Problems and Climate Change

While Raynaud’s is primarily associated with wintry conditions, it can be triggered at any time of the year that experiences extremes in temperature.

This condition, as well as others impacted by temperature, have all been earmarked by health watchdogs as potential problems in the face of climate change. As our bodies struggle to keep pace with extreme weather, conditions like Raynaud’s may worsen.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Yap/Unsplash


John B
John B3 months ago

Thanks Steve for sharing the very informative article and supportive links.

Leanne K
Leanne K3 months ago

Thanks Care2, its good to get info on this kind of thing

Cathy B
Cathy B3 months ago

Helpful. Thank you.

Renee M
Renee M3 months ago

My first boss was diagnosed with this and eventually had to move from NJ to Florida because it got progressively worse. Her doctor told her that her body could no longer tolerate temperatures below 40 degrees even for short periods of time. She did drink coffee but was never a smoker as long as I knew her (about 25 years) and she exercised regularly (mostly walking, swimming and biking).

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill3 months ago


Bill E
Bill E3 months ago

Interesting. I had never heard about this disease. Interesting to see exercise as one of the recommended treatments. Daily exercise does benefit all around good health.

Winn A
Winnie Adams3 months ago


Winn A
Winnie Adams3 months ago


Ruth Rakotomanga
Ruth Rakotomanga3 months ago

Useful info, thanks.

Veronica D
Veronica Danie3 months ago

Thank you so very much.