Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Raynaud's phenomenon

4-minute read

Key facts

  • Raynaud's phenomenon causes parts of your body to feel numb and cool.
  • About 1 in 5 females have Raynaud's phenomenon at some stage in their lives.
  • There are 2 forms of Raynaud's phenomenon: primary Raynaud's phenomenon and secondary Raynaud's phenomenon.

What is Raynaud's phenomenon?

Raynaud's phenomenon (or Raynaud's disease) is a condition that causes parts of your body to feel numb and cool. This may happen when you are cold or stressed.

Females are more commonly affected, with about 1 in 5 getting Raynaud's phenomenon at some stage in their lives. Females under the age of 25 years are more likely to get Raynaud's phenomenon. It's also more common in colder climates.

What are the symptoms of Raynaud's phenomenon?

Raynaud's phenomenon causes your skin to:

  • turn white then blue
  • feel numb
  • feel cold

You are mostly likely to get Raynaud's in your:

  • fingers
  • toes
  • tip of your nose
  • lips
  • ears
  • tongue
  • nipples

Attacks can last from a few minutes to hours. They may be painful.

You may get attacks once in a while, or many times a day.

When the attack is over, blood rushes back to the area. Your affected fingers and toes will become red and warm. They may tingle and throb.

What causes Raynaud's phenomenon?

Raynaud's is caused by temporary disruption to blood flow in small blood vessels in the extremities.

There are 2 forms of Raynaud's phenomenon:

  1. primary Raynaud's phenomenon
  2. secondary Raynaud's phenomenon

Most people have primary Raynaud's phenomenon. This is often mild and does not have a clear underlying cause. It may run in your family.

Some people have secondary Raynaud's phenomenon. This is when your condition has an underlying cause such as:

When should I see my doctor?

If you get Raynaud's phenomenon, you should discuss it with your doctor.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is Raynaud's phenomenon diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and your health in general. They will also examine you.

If your doctor suspects an underlying cause for Raynaud's phenomenon, they may suggest further tests.

How is Raynaud's phenomenon treated?

If you have an attack, try to:

  • get warm
  • wiggle your fingers and toes
  • massage your fingers and toes

If the attack is caused by a stressful situation, try to remove yourself from the situation. If stress is a trigger for you, counselling may help.

If you have secondary Raynaud's phenomenon, treatment of your underlying disease can help.

Medicines may be recommended for people with more severe Raynaud's phenomenon.

Can Raynaud's phenomenon be prevented?

If you have primary Raynaud's phenomenon, here are some tips to help you stop having further attacks:

You should also try to dress warmly. On cold days try wearing:

  • gloves
  • chemical hand warmers
  • a scarf
  • warm socks
  • a hat to stop body heat escaping from the top of your head

Complications of Raynaud's phenomenon

Most people with primary Raynaud's phenomenon don't have any complications. But some disability may happen in 2 in 10 cases.

Resources and support

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Raynaud's phenomenon - Better Health Channel

Raynaud's phenomenon can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, so see your doctor if you experience it.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Raynaud phenomenon

Raynaud phenomenon is an intermittent constriction of the blood flow to the fingers and toes precipitated by cold, emotion and some drugs that cause spasm of the small arteries bringing blood to the fingers and toes.

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Raynaud's Phenomenon — What are the Causes & Symptoms? | MSK Australia

Do you have Raynaud’s phenomenon? Find out more about your musculoskeletal condition, how to manage, and where to find support. Call us today on 1800 263 265

Read more on Musculoskeletal Australia website

Nipple vasospasm and breastfeeding

Nipple vasospasm affects the flow of milk from the nipple and can be painful when breastfeeding. Learn about its causes and treatment.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Scleroderma — Arthritis Australia

The word ‘scleroderma’ means ‘hard skin’

Read more on Arthritis Australia website

How to test for arthritis | Know Pathology Know Healthcare

Find out what tests there are for arthritis and other autoimmune disorders

Read more on Know Pathology Know Healthcare website

Blood and pathology tests for arthritis — Arthritis Australia

Before any tests are done, the doctor will ask you about your symptoms and will often examine you for signs of arthritis or other autoimmune features

Read more on Arthritis Australia website

Centromere antibody | Pathology Tests Explained

The anticentromere antibody (ACA) is an autoantibody - a protein produced by the immune system that mistakenly targets the body's own tissues. More specifica

Read more on Pathology Tests Explained website

Scleroderma - Better Health Channel

The most common symptom of scleroderma is a thickening and hardening of the skin, particularly of the hands and face.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Brrr, it’s cold out there - Musculoskeletal Australia

Winter is well and truly here, and with crazy energy prices, the pressure is on to stay warm without blowing the budget. We've got some tips that can help.

Read more on Musculoskeletal Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.