​Raynaud’s Phenomenon​

Raynaud's disease (also known as Raynaud's phenomenon or Raynaud's condition) is a rare disorder of the blood vessels. An abnormality in blood vessels causes spasm in the vessels that supply blood to the limbs. The blood vessels become narrow and fingers and toes don't receive enough oxygen supply; as a result, experience numbness and cold feeling in fingers and toes. The affected area may also turn become white or blue. After normal function is restored, the skin turns red and begins to tingle.

Raynaud's disease is usually triggered by cold temperatures or stress. Sometimes it happens without any underlying reason, known as primary Raynaud's. In other cases it is caused by injuries, diseases or use of certain medications, which is known as secondary Raynaud's. People living in colder climates are more likely to develop this disease. Women are up to five times more likely to develop Raynaud's than men, particularly those over the age of thirty. Sometimes family history may be a contributing factor.

Raynaud's is not a serious risk to the health but it becomes difficult to function when fingers and toes become numb. Other than your fingers and toes, Raynaud's disease can also affect other body parts such as ears, nose, nipples and lips. ​​

The main symptoms of Raynaud’s disease are: 

  • Pain in the affected areas, especially the fingers, toes and earlobes

  • Discoloration of the skin in the affected areas

  • Sensation of cold and numbness

Raynaud’s disease is often experienced as temporary episodes, and once bloody supply in the affected area is restored, the skin turns red and tingles, and then returns to its normal colour. If someone with Raynaud’s disease is exposed to cold temperatures, the disease could become potentially dangerous. The disease disappears during pregnancy but often reoccurs in breastfeeding mothers, who experience soreness and pain in their nipples. ​

Symptoms of Raynaud's disease usually resolve on their own, especially if there are no underlying causes. Our doctors at the Heart, Lungs and Vascular Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital can help you manage the symptoms if you have any. In most cases, it is not dangerous but if discoloration continues then immediate medical evaluation is needed. If you smoke, have a history of diabetes, or a family history of Raynaud's disease, certain complications may occur such as risk of gangrene.  
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so makes sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started. ​
Raynaud's disease is a recurrent condition but the attacks are temporary. There is no single conclusive test to check for Raynaud's but your doctor will take a medical history and perform blood tests and in some cases X-rays or angiography to locate the source of the problem. 

If you have been diagnosed with Raynaud’s, your doctor will attempt to educate you regarding care and prevention, such as:

  • Avoiding stress

  • Avoiding exposure to cold temperatures

  • Wearing warm and loose fitting clothing

  • Quit smoking

  • Self-care to avoid injury

  • Avoiding alcohol and caffeinated beverages

If the disease is in its advanced stages, you may need medication to relax and widen the arteries to enhance blood flow to the hands, feet or other affected areas. These include calcium channel blockers. A gel known as nitroglycerin may be applied to relieve pain, but not all patients respond to this treatment. Several other types of drugs may also be used, such as nervous system inhibitors but these may have alarming side effects. In very rare cases, surgery may be performed to treat the cause or the symptoms, but it has had very limited success in the past. If the limb develops gangrene, it may need to be amputated. ​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments' costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the 'Important Numbers' section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.