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How Is Raynaud's Diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose primary Raynaud's (Raynaud's disease) or secondary Raynaud's (Raynaud's phenomenon) based on your medical history, a physical exam, and test results.

Specialists Involved

Primary care doctors and internists often diagnose and treat Raynaud's.

If you have the disorder, you also may see a rheumatologist. This is a doctor who specializes in treating disorders of the joints, bones, and muscles.

Rheumatologists diagnose and treat many of the diseases that are linked to secondary Raynaud's, such as scleroderma and lupus.

Medical History

Your doctor may ask about your risk factors for Raynaud's. He or she also may ask about your signs and symptoms when you're exposed to cold temperatures or stress.

For example, your doctor may ask whether your fingers or toes:

  • Feel numb or painful when they're exposed to cold temperatures
  • Turn white or blue, or both, when they're exposed to cold temperatures

Physical Exam

Your doctor will look at your fingers and toes to check the health of your skin and nails and to check blood flow to these areas.

Your doctor also may do a more complete physical exam to check for signs of diseases and conditions that are linked to secondary Raynaud's.

Diagnostic Tests and Procedures

Your doctor may recommend the following tests to check for Raynaud's and related conditions.

Cold Stimulation Test

A cold stimulation test can be used to trigger Raynaud's symptoms. For this test, a small device that measures temperature is taped to your fingers. Your hands are then exposed to cold—they're usually briefly put into ice water.

Your hands are then removed from the cold, and the device measures how quickly your fingers return to their normal temperature. If you have Raynaud's, it may take more than 20 minutes for your fingers to return to their normal temperature.

Because results of this type of test are not always consistent, your doctor may do other tests to check for Raynaud’s.

Nailfold Capillaroscopy

You may have a test called nailfold capillaroscopy (KAP-ih-lar-OS-ko-pe). For this test, your doctor puts a drop of oil at the base of your fingernail. He or she then looks at your fingernail under a microscope.

If your doctor sees abnormal arteries, it may mean you have a disease linked to Raynaud's, such as scleroderma.

Other Tests

Your doctor may order blood tests to look for conditions that are linked to secondary Raynaud's. Examples include antinuclear antibody (ANA), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or "sed rate"), and C-reactive protein (CRP) blood tests.

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Raynaud's Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Raynaud's, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.

 
March 21, 2014 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.