Click here to print page

Raynaud’s syndrome

Angela Davis

Saturday, December 03, 2016

DO you suffer from cold hands and feet? Do you find that even though we live in a tropical climate, your hands feel cold and numb when you enter an air-conditioned room or open your freezer? If this sounds familiar, you may have Raynaud’s syndrome.

Raynaud’s syndrome or disease, as it is sometimes called, causes the small arteries that supply blood to the skin to narrow, thus limiting the blood circulation to that area. It is exacerbated by temperature change or stress. The cause is not known but the affected areas appear to overreact to these situations.

Raynaud’s syndrome is a common condition that affects up to 20 per cent of the world’s population. People who live in cooler climates tend to suffer with it more, but there is still a significant number of people in warmer climates who have it. The condition is more common in women than men and it tends to run in families.

If you smoke, work with vibrating equipment, or if you are exposed to certain chemicals like vinyl chloride, you are at higher risk of developing Raynaud’s syndrome. Though it usually affects the hands and feet, it can also affect the ears, nose and nipples.

There are two types of Raynaud’s syndrome: Primary, in which Raynaud’s syndrome develops by itself, and secondary, where it is caused by another underlying condition. Most cases of secondary Raynaud’s syndrome are associated with autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.


1. On contact with a trigger, like cold air-conditioning or stress, the fingers and toes will feel very cold.

2. The skin will change colour and become paler. This is much easier to identify with white skin, where the skin may go completely white and then blue.

3. The affected area becomes numb.

As you warm up or experience stress relief, the area may sting or feel prickly. The skin may become red and hot. It can take up to 15 minutes for blood flow to return to normal.


It is important to avoid the triggers of Raynaud’s syndrome so that you can reduce the number and severity of the attacks as well as prevent tissue damage. There are medications that can dilate the blood vessels or restrict the hormones that cause vasoconstriction.

In severe cases, surgical procedures that involve cutting nerves to interrupt their exaggerated response may be advised. Patients should not smoke as this causes vasoconstriction. Regular exercise is recommended and stress control.

In secondary Raynaud’s syndrome, the underlying condition should be treated.

In most cases, Raynaud’s syndrome is just an irritation but in some severe cases, the skin may ulcerate and patients may develop gangrene and require amputation.

Angela Davis BSc (Hons) DPodM MChS is a podiatrist with offices in Montego Bay (293- 7119), Mandeville (962-2100), Ocho Rios (974- 6339), Kingston (978-8392), and Savanna-la- Mar (955-3154). She is a member of the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom.