Raynaud's Disease | Causes & Risk Factors

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What causes Raynaud’s?

There are two types of Raynaud’s disease:

Primary Raynaud’s disease is the most common type, making up about 80% of the cases. Primary Raynaud’s occurs when the blood vessels in the hands or feet overreact to stress or cold temperatures. Often, people who have primary Raynaud’s have mild symptoms that can be treated with lifestyle changes.

Secondary Raynaud's syndrome occurs in people who have some other health problem that leads to or triggers Raynaud’s syndrome. Secondary Raynaud’s is a more serious disease that can require both medicine and lifestyle changes to manage. Secondary Raynaud’s may be related to:

  • Connective tissue disorders, such as polymyositis/dermatomyositis, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, Sjögren's syndrome, lupus
  • Endocrine (gland) disorders, such as hypothyroidism
  • Blood disorders, such as cold agglutinin disease, Polycythemia vera
  • Neoplastic (cell growth) disorders, such as carcinoid syndrome, paraneoplastic syndrome
  • Problems that affect the nervous system, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Vascular disorders, such as thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Artery diseases, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), Buerger's disease, pulmonary hypertension

Some medicines also can trigger Raynaud’s:

  • Certain high blood pressure medicines called beta blockers
  • Migraine medicines that contain ergotamine
  • Estrogen-containing medicines, such as birth control pills
  • Chemotherapy medicine, such as cisplatin and vinblastine
  • Certain cold medicines that cause blood vessels to narrow, such as those containing pseudoephedrine

Who is at risk for Raynaud’s?

Raynaud’s disease affects about 3% to 5% of people. It is most common in women and occurs more often in colder climates.

Primary Raynaud’s usually occurs between 15 and 25 years of age. People who have a family history of the disease are at a greater risk.

Secondary Raynaud’s occurs later in life, usually in people 30 years of age and older. Certain diseases (see above), medicines (see above), smoking, injuries to the hands or feet, frostbite, chemical exposure, and occupations that involve repetitive motion or vibration have also been linked to Raynaud’s disease.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/11
Created: 08/09

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