Diagnosing 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. Types of Raynaud’s phenomenon include primary Raynaud’s, which occurs independently of another medical condition, and secondary Raynaud’s, which occurs in conjunction with another health condition.
Like any diagnostic process, diagnosing Raynaud’s phenomenon begins with a medical history and a physical exam. If Raynaud’s is suspected, a series of tests may be ordered.
Cold stimulation test
A “cold stimulation test” involves putting the fingers or hands into an ice water bath and observing the reaction of the skin.
Pulse volume recording
This noninvasive test uses ultrasound technology to measure blood flow in the arms and legs. It helps determine if blood flow is reduced and, if so, to what degree.
Diagnostics for secondary Raynaud’s
Several different tests can help determine if Raynaud’s phenomenon is present due to another medical condition.
This test involves placing a drop of oil at the base of the fingernail (the nailfold). The area is then observed under a microscope. Enlarged or abnormal capillaries potentially indicate the presence of a connective tissue disease that is causing secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test
This blood test helps detect autoimmune diseases, which can lead to secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Complete blood count (CBC)
A CBC is a blood test that can help detect certain medical conditions that may cause secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test
An ESR is a blood test that can detect the presence of inflammation in the body. It can help with the diagnosis of certain medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders.
A urinalysis can help determine if certain medical conditions are the cause of secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Rheumatoid factor test
This blood test can help to check for the presence of certain autoimmune diseases.