Raynaud's Disease

Raynaud's disease causes the extremities (toes, fingers, and the tips of the nose and ears) to feel cold or numb. It tends to flare up in either cold weather or under stressful conditions. There is a known correlation between patients with migraine and Raynaud's disease. Migraine sufferers have a higher tendency to be diagnosed with Raynaud's disease; the reverse statement is also true.


When a person has Raynaud's disease, the arteries near the skin tend to constrict. As a result, blood flow to the extremities is lessened, hence the feeling of coldness and numbness. As blood supply to those extremities is compromised, the skin may turn white or pale colored. If oxygen flow lessens considerably, those same areas may turn blue.


Why are Raynaud's disease patients more likely to also have migraine disease?

The precise connection between Raynaud's disease and migraine is not known. Migraine sufferers often report heightened sensitivity to cold and tingling in their fingers. Also, both diseases involve reactivity of the blood vessels in response to some trigger, suggesting that common factors are at play.

Note that Raynaud's disease flare-ups are episodic. In times of cold weather, flare-ups may occur. Once the skin is warmed, blood flow to those regions returns and skin color should become more normal.

Migraine Similarities

In both migraine and Raynaud's disease, the vascular system is often more reactive than in normal patients, and vasomotor instability is common. Raynaud's flare-ups are fairly predictable — that is, they occur with a change in temperature. Migraine attacks can be predictable once triggers are identified, but they can also strike seemingly at random. To that end, Raynaud's disease may be easier for patients to manage.

Treatment for Raynaud's and Migraine

For patients who suffer from migraines and Raynaud's disease, calcium channel blocking drugs such as verapamil (Calan, Isoptin) are commonly given. These drugs are preventative, and must be taken for many weeks or even months before the full benefit can be seen. Beta-adrenergic antagonist drugs, or beta-blockers such as propranolol, are widely used to help prevent migraines, but should not be used for patients who have Raynaud's disease because they can make circulation problems worse.

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