What Is the Difference Between Raynaud’s Disease and Raynaud’s Phenomenon?


Raynaud’s is a rare condition that affects the blood vessels, usually in the fingers and toes. The blood vessels narrow, or vasospasm, when stress is experienced or the fingers or toes are exposed to cold temperatures. This narrowing of the vessels prevents blood from reaching the affected area, making the skin appear white and blue.

When dealing with Raynaud’s, even a brief or minimal temperature change can lead to an attack. For example, reaching into a freezer can cause the fingers to turn white.


  • Primary Raynaud’s (Raynaud’s disease) occurs without another illness triggering the condition. Primary Raynaud’s disease is much more common and tends to be milder than secondary Raynaud’s.
  • Secondary Raynaud’s (Raynaud’s phenomenon or Raynaud’s syndrome) occurs as a result of an illness or another contributing factor.


During an attack of Raynaud’s, symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The affected area becomes cold.
  • The affected area can become numb or painful.
  • The skin of the affected area can turn white and then blue.

When a Raynaud’s attack ceases, and blood returns to the area, burning, throbbing, tingling, numbness, and swelling of the affected area may occur.

Raynaud’s most commonly affects the fingers and toes; however, in rare cases, it can affect the nose, ears, lips or nipples. Attacks typically start in one finger or toe and travel to other fingers or toes. Attacks generally last approximately 15 minutes but can occur for less than a minute or for several hours.


The causes of primary and secondary Raynaud’s differ.

Primary Raynaud’s (Raynaud’s disease)

The cause of primary Raynaud’s disease is unknown. However, symptoms occur as a result of brief episodes of vasospasm, which is a narrowing of the blood vessels. This reduces blood flow to the affected area, resulting in the area feeling cold and numb and changing color to white or blue.

Secondary Raynaud’s (Raynaud’s phenomenon or Raynaud’s syndrome)

Secondary Raynaud’s occurs as a result of an underlying disease or condition. Causes include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Injury to the hands or feet
  • Habitual smoking
  • Medications that narrow the arteries or affect blood pressure
  • Repetitive actions or vibrations, such as when using a jackhammer
  • Exposure to chemicals
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Diseases of the arteries, such as atherosclerosis, Buerger's disease, or pulmonary hypertension
  • Connective tissue diseases, such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or Sjögren's syndrome.

Rick factors

Raynaud’s disease (Primary Raynaud’s)

Risk factors include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Female
  • Age range between 15 and 30
  • Family history of Raynaud’s disease
  • Residence in a cold climate
Raynaud’s phenomenon (Secondary Raynaud’s)

Risk factors include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Age over 30
  • Habitual smoking
  • Exposure to chemicals
  • Use of certain medications
  • Occupations that cause repetitive trauma, such as using a jackhammer
  • Diseases that directly damage the arteries or damage the nerves that control the arteries in the hands and feet
  • Residence in a cold climate
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