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Raynaud's phenomenon - Diagnosing Raynaud's

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Raynaud's phenomenon can usually be diagnosed after an examination of your symptoms and some blood tests.

Your GP may place your hands in cold water or cool air to see if you show symptoms of Raynaud's.

Further testing is usually recommended to find out whether you have primary or secondary Raynaud's.

Secondary Raynaud's may require more treatment and in some cases referral to a specialist.

The first step is usually to check if you have the following features, as these would suggest you have secondary Raynaud's:

  • your symptoms only started when you were over 30 years of age - most cases of primary Raynaud's begin between the ages of 20 to 30
  • you are experiencing severe pain during an attack of Raynaud's
  • only one side of your body is affected

Your GP may also check the tiny blood vessels, known as capillaries, found where your nail meets the finger. These capillaries are commonly larger than normal in people with secondary Raynaud's, and look like red pen marks.

Blood tests

Your GP may also refer you for blood tests to check for other health conditions that may be causing your symptoms.

Full blood count

A full blood count is a measurement of how many of the different types of blood cells you have in your blood.

High levels of white blood cells could indicate your symptoms are the result of an infection, or much less commonly, a cancer of the blood such as leukaemia.

Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) test

This blood test checks for antinuclear antibodies in your blood. These antibodies are produced by your immune system and attack your body's own tissues.

If these antibodies are present, it indicates an overactive immune system, which is common in people with autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. A positive result would strongly indicate that you have secondary Raynaud's.

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate

This blood test measures how fast your red blood cells settle to the bottom of a test tube. A faster-than-normal fall rate can indicate an autoimmune disorder.

Medical Review: January 11, 2013
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