What’s Raynaud’s Disease and How Does It Affect Circulation?

Raynaud’s disease is a rare condition that affects the arteries. It significantly reduces blood flow, resulting in numbness and color changes in your fingers and toes. If you have vascular health issues like venous insufficiency, you might also be more likely to experience Raynaud’s disease, considering how these conditions interact within your circulatory system.

As the cold months approach, it’s essential to assess your risk for Raynaud’s disease–a condition known to intensify as temperatures drop–and be aware of the symptoms it shares with venous insufficiency. Understanding these overlapping signs is your first line of defense in halting the progression of both conditions.


What’s Raynaud’s Disease? 

Also referred to as Raynaud’s phenomenon, this condition leads to the narrowing of the small arteries that supply blood to your skin. This can seriously slow down or even stop blood flow in the affected areas and mess with your circulation (pro-tip: boost circulation with compression stockings.) Raynaud’s disease triggers vasospasm attacks, marked by involuntary blood vessel constrictions that lead to painful sensations and potential tissue damage. This causes the impacted areas to turn white and then shift to blue, often paired with a numbing pain. After the vasospasm subsides and regular blood circulation is restored, the affected areas typically turn red and may be accompanied by a tingling or throbbing sensation.

Though it primarily affects the fingers and toes, Raynaud’s disease can also extend to other body parts, such as the nose, ears, lips, and nipples. Essentially, it can target any area where blood vessels are prone to constricting due to cold or stress. The condition comes in two forms: Primary Raynaud’s, which usually doesn’t connect to underlying health issues, and Secondary Raynaud’s, which is often tied to autoimmune or connective tissue conditions.


Behind the Cold Touch: Discovering What Causes Raynaud’s Disease

Raynaud's disease causesCold temperatures are a major trigger for Raynaud’s disease–even a minor temperature drop can set off an attack. But that’s not the only cause. Let’s dive into some other factors that can lead to a vasospasm.

Conditions Damaging Arteries or Nerves

Did you know some conditions can mess with your arteries or the nerves controlling them, leading to Raynaud’s? Diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma can trigger inflammation or direct damage to your blood vessels and nerves, throwing off their normal function. 

Repetitive Actions

Repetitive motions, like constant typing or playing an instrument, can lead to Raynaud’s disease. Overuse injury, when you keep doing the same thing, can actually damage the nerves in your hands and wrists. These nerves are important for controlling your blood vessels and when they’re out of whack, you might experience vasospasms.

Injuries to Hands and Feet

Trauma to the hands and feet, such as fractures, surgery, or frostbite, can damage blood vessels or nerves. This damage disrupts normal blood flow, contributing to the development of Raynaud’s.

Chemical Exposure

Did you know that certain chemicals, like the stuff used in making plastics, can be rough on your blood vessels and nerves? Exposure to vinyl chloride, for instance, has been linked to a higher chance of getting Raynaud’s. 

Medicines Affecting Blood Vessels

A number of common medications can nudge you towards Raynaud’s symptoms. Things like beta-blockers for high blood pressure, migraine meds containing ergotamine, birth control pills, some cold or allergy meds like decongestants and ephedrine, diet aids, and even certain cancer drugs like cisplatin and vinblastine can play a role in tightening your arteries and tampering with your blood pressure.

Gender Differences

Women are more likely to get Raynaud’s disease than men, and it might have something to do with hormones, especially estrogen. This hormone affects blood vessels and nerves in ways that could trigger or amp up Raynaud’s symptoms. Many women start to notice these symptoms during periods of major hormonal shifts such as puberty, pregnancy, or menopause–all times characterized by significant changes in estrogen levels.

Is There Treatment for Raynaud’s Disease?


Many individuals with Raynaud’s can effectively manage the condition through lifestyle changes, while those with more severe cases may require medication. Let’s explore key strategies for effectively managing Raynaud’s disease.

Protect Yourself From Cold Temperatures: Wear hats, mittens (rather than gloves), scarves, coats with snug cuffs, and warm socks and shoes for cold weather. Put hand and foot warmers in your gloves, boots, socks, or pockets for added warmth. 

Avoid Stress Triggers: Stay away from things that make you upset or stressed and learn ways to handle the stressors you can’t avoid. Physical activity helps some people cope with stress, while others turn to music, yoga, or quality time with pets, friends, and family. In short, find whatever relaxes you and do it often. 

Limit Workplace and Recreational Triggers: Limit the use of vibrating tools, such as drills. Wear proper protective gear if you work with industrial chemicals. Reduce activities with repetitive hand motions, like typing or playing the piano.

Consider Medication as Needed: When lifestyle adjustments aren’t enough to manage Raynaud’s symptoms, medications can help enhance blood flow. Options include calcium channel blockers and alpha-blockers, along with topical treatments like skin creams.

Is There a Connection Between Raynaud’s Disease and Venous Insufficiency?

If you’ve found your way to this article, venous issues are likely on your mind. Is there a connection between Raynaud’s disease and venous insufficiency? Here’s why you should be keeping an eye on both. 

Raynaud’s disease and venous insufficiency are distinct conditions, but they can be loosely connected in how they affect circulation. While both conditions involve the vascular system, they function within different domains. Varicose veins develop within the superficial venous pathway and primarily involve the return of venous blood to the heart. Raynaud’s disease affects the arterial system and is related to the delivery of blood from the heart to the extremities.

The dual occurrence of venous insufficiency and Raynaud’s disease could stem from various factors:

  • Shared Risks: Cold climates and habits like smoking can worsen both conditions. Smoking, in particular, deteriorates overall circulatory health, affecting both venous insufficiency and Raynaud’s.
  • Systemic Diseases: Autoimmune disorders like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis can potentially lead to venous insufficiency through vein damage and Raynaud’s through vascular injury.
  • Age-Related Changes: Getting older can slow down your circulation, making you more prone to things like venous insufficiency due to weaker veins and Raynaud’s due to blood vessel changes.
  • Work and Environmental Exposure: Jobs involving prolonged standing or use of vibratory tools can lead to venous insufficiency, and cold work environments can trigger Raynaud’s.
  • Genetic Factors: A genetic predisposition can contribute to both conditions, particularly in those with a family history of circulatory or autoimmune diseases.

Why Prioritizing Vascular Health is Essential

Understanding Raynaud’s disease and its potential connection to venous insufficiency is crucial for effectively managing your circulatory concerns. While these conditions may not be directly linked, their shared risks serve as a wake-up call to prioritize your vascular well-being. Making a visit to the healthcare specialist is not just beneficial, but essential for finding a tailored treatment for both conditions.

At Delaware Advanced Vein Center, our expert medical staff has years of experience treating people with venous conditions such as varicose veins, spider veins, and more. Our dedicated team specializes in providing attentive and personalized care, something larger clinics often overlook. We welcome you to our family of satisfied patients.

Contact us today to schedule a FREE virtual consultation and vein evaluation.