What causes Raynaud’s disease?

Woman showing poor circulation to her hands

I have a friend who has Raynaud’s disease, so she has poor circulation to her hands. What causes Raynaud’s and am I more likely to get it because I have heart disease?

Professor Jeremy Pearson says:

Raynaud’s disease, or Raynaud’s phenomenon, is named after the French doctor who first wrote about it in the 1850s. It’s a common disorder in which small blood vessels are oversensitive to changes in temperature, although the exact cause isn’t known. In the cold, fingers – and often toes and ears – turn white or even blue, and go numb as the blood vessels constrict, cutting off the supply of blood. When they start warming up and the blood supply begins to be restored, they turn red and are often painful.

There’s no known link between Raynaud’s and heart disease

Although it’s a disorder that affects blood vessels, other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic sclerosis (a rare connective tissue disease) may also cause it. In this case, if your GP can’t help, a rheumatologist or dermatologist may be able to deal with your condition.

There’s no known link between Raynaud’s and heart disease. However, anyone who already suffers from Raynaud’s and is then diagnosed with heart disease should make sure that their doctor is aware of it. While several of the medicines prescribed to heart patients can improve the symptoms of Raynaud’s, others may make them worse.

For more information about the condition, visit the Raynaud's & Scleroderma Association website or call them on 0800 917 2494.

Jeremy PearsonMeet the expert

Professor Jeremy Pearson is Associate Medical Director (Research) at the BHF where he co-ordinates the funding for our life-saving research. He’s a faculty member at King’s College London and spends up to a day a week there for research and teaching.

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