Body heat is spread throughout the body by blood vessels. The body conserves heat when it is cold by slowing the supply of blood to 'non-essential' areas—like the skin and extremities. It does this by making blood vessels more narrow. With Raynaud’s Disease, the body’s reaction to cold or stress is stronger than normal. Exposure to temperature differentials causes violent vasospasms, referred to as Raynaud's attacks.

Timelapse of a Raynaud's attack.

Raynaud's attacks can last less than a minute or as long as several hours. Attacks can occur multiple times in a day, or as rare as weekly. Extremities like the hands and feet are most commonly affected. Attacks often begin in one finger or toe and move to other fingers or toes. Sometimes only one or two fingers or toes are affected. Different areas may also be affected at different times.

During an attack, the affected area may change colors due to the lack of blood and oxygen being carried to the area. They may go from white to blue to red. They may also feel cold and numb from lack of blood flow. As the attack ends and blood flow returns, the skin can throb and tingle. After the cold parts of the body warm up, normal blood flow returns in about 15 minutes.

While signs and symptoms of Raynaud's depend on the frequency, duration and severity of the blood vessel spasms, some common signs and symptoms of Raynaud's Disease include:

  • Cold fingers or toes
  • Color changes in your skin in response to cold or stress
  • Numb, prickly feeling or stinging pain upon warming or stress relief

Severe Raynaud's can cause skin sores or gangrene. "Gangrene" refers to the death or decay of body tissues. See your doctor right away if you have a history of severe Raynaud's or if you develop a sore or infection in one of your affected fingers or toes.

Learn more about the Symptoms of Raynaud's by visiting nih & mayo clinic