Raynaud's

If your fingers often become cold, numb, painful and change colour, you might have Raynaud's phenomenon. Raynaud's is a very common condition that is thought to affect up to 10 million people in the UK. It is named after Maurice Raynaud, the doctor who first acknowledged it.

When we are exposed to the cold, a normal response of the body is for the blood vessels, such as those in the fingers and toes, to become narrower. When someone has Raynaud's, the narrowing of the blood vessels is more extreme, resulting in the skin changing colour. The fingers and toes may change from white to blue, and then to red. A Raynaud's attack can be very painful, especially as the circulation returns. Raynaud's can also affect the lips, nose, ears and nipples in the same way.

The main triggers of a Raynaud's attack are exposure to the cold and emotional stress. it occurs more commonly in women, and often presents before the age of 30.

Most people diagnosed with the condition will have primary Raynaud's, meaning that there are no other complications. Secondary Raynaud's is far less common, and is caused by another autoimmune condition, such as scleroderma. It is often the first sign that people notice. Someone who has secondary Raynaud's may be prone to more serious complications as a result of Raynaud's attacks, such as finger ulcers.