Raynaud’s syndrome – the cold truth!

What is Raynaud’s syndrome?

This condition causes an abnormal sensitivity to cold that gives discomfort, numbness, tingling and colour changes in the fingers or toes.

It is a chronic condition that affects around 10 million people in the UK, that’s approximately 1 in 6, and it has no cure!

The blood vessels that feed the fingers and toes are extremely small, during a Raynaud’s attack these blood vessels shrink faster than normal.  As a result, the skin in the affected area turns white or blue.

This colour change happens because the blood lacks oxygen. Even relatively minor exposure to the cold, such as holding a glass of ice water or being in air conditioning can cause the change.  It can also occur due to stress. An attack usually lasts around 15 minutes.  It may also affect the blood vessels in your nose, lips, or ear lobes!

What are the different types of Raynaud’s syndrome?

There are two main types of Raynaud’s syndrome:

  1. Primary Raynaud’s syndrome – also called Raynaud’s disease. This can occur at any age; however, it usually begins before the age of 30.  It is also more common in women and among people who live in cold climates.  The causes are unknown; however, episodes are often triggered by cold temperatures and sometimes emotional stress.
  2. Secondary Raynaud’s syndrome – also called Raynaud’s phenomenon. This is often more complex and severe.  It happens as a result of another disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.  It may also be linked to certain medicines such as chemotherapy drugs or the use of vibrating tools such as jackhammers, which may cause wrist or hand injuries.


Symptoms of this disease can include:

  • Extreme sensitivity to cold. This happens when the affected part of the body isn’t receiving oxygen-rich blood.
  • Feeling warmth, tingling, or throbbing. This happens as blood flow returns to the affected body part.
  • Skin colour changes. Fingers, toes and sometimes the ears, lips and nose turn white due to lack of blood flow.  The blood that’s left in the tissues loses its oxygen and the affected area turns blue.  As fresh blood returns to the area it often turns bright red.
  • Skin ulcers and gangrene. For people with severe undiagnosed Raynaud’s and attacks that last a long time, painful, slow-healing sores may occur.  Long-term lack of oxygen may lead to tissue death (gangrene)

For around 300,000 people this condition could also be a sign on an underlying autoimmune condition, including scleroderma that could be potentially life-threatening.  Early detection is vital to manage Raynaud’s symptoms effectively, minimise attacks and diagnose any associated health issues.

Unfortunately, according to new figures nearly one in two adults (46%) would not see their doctor if they experienced cold feet or hands regularly and more that 28 million (52%) would not book a GP appointment for chilblains on their hands and feet.  Likewise, frequent colour changes in the skin would not make 23.8 million UK adults (44%) discuss it with their GP!

Raynaud’s itself is not life-threatening, but it can be very painful and have a huge impact on daily activities.

During an attack, simple things like buttoning a coat, turning a key in a door or handling bank cards can become virtually impossible.

If you are experiencing symptoms Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK (SRUK) has designed an online test.

The test, which has been developed in conjunction with clinical experts and delivers results in around 60 seconds, will allow people to find out more about Raynaud’s, how to manage it and advise if a GP visit is needed.  To take the online test, visit sruk.co.uk/testme

If you would like some further information or to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us at: or [email address=”luton@healesclinics.com”