How is Raynaud’s treated?

The goals of treatment are to reduce the severity of attacks and to prevent tissue damage and loss in the fingers and toes. Doctors may prescribe medications for some patients - usually those with Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon; however, doctors most often prescribe non-drug treatments.

Several non-drug treatments, described below, may help decrease the severity of a Raynaud’s attack as well as promote overall well-being.

  • Be proactive during an attack: A Raynaud’s attack should not be ignored. By taking the proper steps, the length and severity of the attack can be decreased. The first and most important action is to warm your hands and feet. In cold weather, you should go indoors. Running warm water over your fingers and toes or soaking them in a bowl of warm water will also help. Learning relaxation techniques as well as taking time to relax will further help to end an attack.
  • Keep warm: Not only is it important to keep your hands and feet warm, but it is also helpful to avoid chilling any other part of the body. In cold weather, pay particular attention to the way you dress. Several layers of loose clothing, socks, hats, and gloves or mittens are recommended. Hats are particularly important because a great deal of body heat is lost through the scalp.
    • Keep your feet and hands dry and warm. Chemical warmers, such as small heating pouches that can be placed in pockets, mittens, boots or shoes, can give added protection during long periods outdoors. Other suggestions include:
      • Avoid touching cold metals
      • Avoid putting hands in cold water or holding iced drinks
      • Avoid air-conditioned rooms or the frozen food sections of grocery stores as much as possible
  • Practice good skin care: Prevent dryness or cracking of the skin by applying a liberal amount of moisturizer or hand cream, especially after washing your hands.
  • Quit smoking: Nicotine causes the skin temperature to drop, which may lead to an attack.
  • Learn to manage stress: Because stress may trigger an attack, particularly for people who have primary Raynaud’s phenomenon, learning to recognize and avoid stressful situations may help control the number of attacks. Many people have found that relaxation exercises or biofeedback training can help decrease the number and the severity of attacks.
  • Exercise: Many doctors encourage patients who have Raynaud’s phenomenon to exercise regularly. Most people find that exercise promotes an overall well-being, increases energy level, helps control weight, and promotes restful sleep. Patients with Secondary Raynaud’s should talk to a doctor before exercising outdoors in cold weather. Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
  • See a doctor: You should see your doctor if you are worried or frightened about attacks or if you have questions about caring for yourself. Always see your doctor if attacks occur only on one side of the body (one hand or one foot) and any time an attack results in sores or ulcers on the fingers or toes.
  • Medications: People with secondary Raynaud's phenomenon are more likely than those with the primary form to be treated with medications. Many health care professionals believe that the most effective and safest drugs are calcium- channel blockers, which relax smooth muscles and dilate the small blood vessels. These drugs decrease the frequency and severity of attacks in about two-thirds of patients who have Primary or Secondary Raynaud's phenomenon. These drugs also can help heal skin ulcers on the fingers or toes.

Other medications that have helped patients with Raynaud’s include alpha-blockers, which counteract norepinephrine, a hormone that constricts blood vessels, and vasodilators (drugs that relax the blood vessels), such as nitroglycerine paste, which is applied to the fingers, to help heal skin ulcers.

It is important to note that treatment with medications is not always successful. Often, patients with the secondary form of Raynaud’s will not respond as well to treatment as those with the primary form of the disorder. Patients may find that one drug works better than another and some people may experience side effects that require stopping the medication. For other people, a drug may become less effective over time.

Regardless of the medication a patient is using, it is important that he or she schedule follow-up appointments with his or her doctor so the effects of the medications can be monitored.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/14/2019.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy