Types of Raynaud’s Phenomenon


What is Raynaud’s phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition in which blood flow to the small blood vessels in the fingers or toes is reduced in response to cold or stress. Although less common, blood vessels in other areas of the body, such as the nose, ears, or knees, can also be affected. During a Raynaud’s attack, affected areas typically feel cold, numb, and turn pale, white, or blue. As the blood vessels relax, the area may become red, swollen, or painful. Raynaud’s phenomenon is categorized into two types: primary Raynaud’s and secondary Raynaud’s.

Primary Raynaud’s phenomenon

Primary Raynaud’s phenomenon occurs independently of another medical condition. It is the most common type of Raynaud’s, and symptoms are usually less severe than secondary Raynaud’s. In many cases, individuals with primary Raynaud’s phenomenon don’t seek treatment, as the symptoms can be quite mild. The condition typically manifests between ages 15 and 25.

Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon

Although less common than primary Raynaud’s, secondary Raynaud’s is more severe. It develops as a result of another medical condition, most commonly autoimmune or connective tissue conditions that cause inflammation or narrowing of the blood vessels. It can also develop from medical conditions that put pressure on major nerves. Certain behaviors, medications, or lifestyle factors can also lead to secondary Raynaud’s. It typically manifests after age 35. Some conditions, behaviors, and medications that are associated with secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon include the following:

  • Lupus
  • Polymyositis
  • Buerger’s disease
  • Occlusive vascular disease (such as atherosclerosis)
  • Scleroderma
  • CREST syndrome (a form of scleroderma)
  • Blood disorders (such as cryoglobulinemia)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Diseases of the arteries
  • Frostbite
  • Connective tissue diseases
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Injuries to the hands or feet
  • Repeated actions/vibrations (such as use of a jackhammer)

Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon can also be caused by exposure to or use of certain substances, including the following:

  • Nicotine
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Epoxy resins
  • Cocaine
  • Caffeine

Certain medications are also linked to secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon, including the following:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Chemotherapy medications
  • Decongestants that contain phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine
  • Migraine medications that contain ergotamine
  • Stimulant medications
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