Whats the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Raynaud's?

1 CommentTuesday, 12 December 2017  |  John

Everyone knows the feeling of having cold hands and feet on a chilly day, but for sufferers of Raynaud's disease, this feeling is all too common and can sometimes feel like an inescapable part of everyday life. While most people can simply go indoors or sit by a fire to heat their extremities, those with Raynaud's will often have to take extra measures, and even these will sometimes be insufficient. At RaynaudsDisease.com, we're committed to helping those with Raynauds, and while we stock plenty of products to provide warmth and comfort, often the most important first step is proper education.

What is Raynaud's Disease?

Raynaud's disease, also known as Raynaud's syndrome and Raynaud's phenomenon, is the result of over-sensitive blood vessels in the extremities of the body. Most often experienced in the hands, feet, fingers and toes, the condition causes your extremities to feel cold, often resulting in pain, discomfort and an unsettling purple or white colouring.

In those with Raynaud's, small blood vessels in the skin will spasm in response to cold temperatures, causing the blood supply to slow. These vessels will overreact to the cold stimulus, becoming narrow and restricting the supply of blood to extremities. Symptoms of the conditions can be caused by cool whether, contact with a freezer, running hands under cold water, or even stress in some cases. The condition can also be linked to other health conditions, which brings us to primary and secondary Raynaud's disease.

Woman with raynau'd disease holding a cup

Raynaud's disease can cause the hands and feet to feel cold and painful

Primary Raynaud's Syndrome

Primary Raynaud's Disease is by far the most common iteration of the condition. Primary Raynaud's is evident when the condition and its symptoms occur by themselves, without being associated with another health condition. Though experts believe primary Raynaud's is the result of disruptions to the nervous system's control of blood vessels, exactly what causes the condition remains largely a mystery. There is some evidence that it may be a hereditary condition that is passed down through families, but even this isn't known for sure.

The main features of primary Raynaud's are:

  • Most common form of Raynaud's disease
  • Occurs by itself without links to other conditions
  • Caused by disruptions in how the nervous system controls blood vessels
  • Underlying causes are largely unknown, but thought to be hereditary

Risk factors for primary Raynaud's disease include:

  • Sex: Women are more commonly affected than men
  • Age: Primary Raynaud's usually begins between 15 and 30, though it can surface at any time
  • Climate: Predictably, Raynaud's occurs much more in colder climates
  • Family history: There is an apparent increase in Raynaud's risk if close family members have suffered from the condition

Secondary Raynaud's Syndrome

Secondary Raynaud's is commonly referred to as Raynaud's phenomenon, and occurs as a result of an underlying problem. Less common than primary Raynaud's but often more serious, symptoms of this condition usually arise later in life after age 40. While secondary Raynaud's can be caused by any number of conditions, common causes include:

  • Connective tissues diseases: Conditions like Sceleroderma, which causes the skin to harden and scar, can greatly increase Raynaud's risk. Other such conditions include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren's syndrome.
  • Heart or artery disease: Any conditions that restrict blood flow can drastically increase risk of Raynaud's disease. This category includes conditions like atherosclerosis, Buerger's disease or hypertension.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: When the carpal (the narrow passage in your wrist that protects a nerve in your hand) is under pressure, your hand can feel numb and cold. Naturally, this can make your hand more sensitive to cold, and exacerbate Raynaud's risk.
  • Injury: Fractures, surgery or frostbite to the hands and feet can lessen blood flow, increasing Raynaud's risk.
  • Smoking: We've all heard the detriments smoking can have to our health, and Raynaud's is another factor. Smoking constricts the blood vessels, making it much harder for the body to heat its extremities.

The main features of secondary Raynaud's disease are:

  • Commonly called Raynaud's phenomenon
  • Caused by some sort of underlying condition
  • Less common than primary Raynaud's but more serious
  • Symptoms usually appear after age 40

Risk factors of secondary Raynaud's syndrome include:

  • Underlying conditions: Including skin, blood vessel and nerve conditions
  • Occupation: Jobs that feature repetitive physical trauma, such as those that involve operating vibrating tools
  • Exposure to substances: Including smoking or taking medication that affects the blood vessels

Conquer Your Raynaud's

Now that you know a little more about Raynaud's and have figured out which category you fall into, you can start tackling the issue head on. At RaynaudsDisease.com, we stock a wide range of products to keep you warm and comfortable through all seasons of the year. Whether you're looking for gloves and warmers to keep your hands warm, or socks and insoles to keep your feet cosy, we'll have everything you're after and more. 

Do you want to learn more about how we can help you conquer your Raynaud's Disease? You can contact our Customer Care Team at 020 7501 1107, leave a comment below, or get in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter.


Beth Jones
Tuesday, 23 October 2018  |  5:31

will raynauds get worse as I get older

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