Raynaud's phenomenon

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Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition in which some areas of the body have an exaggerated response to cold temperature or emotional stress. It usually happens in the fingers or toes. During an attack of Raynaud's, the blood vessels in the affected areas tighten. This severely limits the flow of blood to the skin.

Normally the body narrows (constricts) these blood vessels when the skin gets cold. This helps conserve body heat. Stress or exposure to cold temperatures may trigger an exaggeration of this normal body function. The fingers and hands may turn pale, white, and later blue and feel cold to the touch. It can also happen in the feet, nose, or ears. Sometimes fingers or toes feel numb and tingly, as if they have "fallen asleep." Or they may become painful and swollen.

Most cases of Raynaud's phenomenon have no known cause. But some people may develop Raynaud's as a result of frostbite, an injury, or a disease (such as lupus, scleroderma, atherosclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis). Vibrations from power tools or drugs that affect blood flow may also trigger Raynaud's phenomenon. These drugs include nicotine and cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine.

Treatment for Raynaud's phenomenon focuses on preventing attacks by avoiding cold, stress, and other triggers. If your attempts to prevent attacks do not work, prescription medicine may be helpful.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.