Testing & Diagnosis for Raynaud Phenomenon in Children


Primary Raynaud’s phenomenon is often diagnosed by general practitioners. Your child’s doctor will ask about his medical history and symptoms and do a physical exam to help rule out more common ailments like chilblains (cold-induced sores at the tips of digits) or a pinched nerve.

It’s fairly simple to determine if someone has Raynaud’s phenomenon, but it’s tricky to sort out primary from secondary (whose underlying cause can be difficult to spot).

If your pediatrician is concerned your child may have secondary Raynaud’s, she may refer him to a rheumatologist (a specialist in treating immune-mediated diseases of the joints, blood vessels and muscles). Rheumatologists are experts on the autoimmune diseases that cause secondary Raynaud’s, like scleroderma and lupus.

Tests to determine whether your child’s Raynaud’s is primary or secondary include:

  • nailfold capillaroscopy: An in-office test where the doctor uses a microscope or other magnifying device to look at the capillaries (tiny blood vessels) at the base of your child’s fingernail. Enlarged or irregular capillaries can be a sign of certain autoimmune diseases.
  • antinuclear antibody test (ANA): A lab test that checks your child’s blood for the presence of antinuclear antibodies, which are a kind of protein that attacks the body’s own cells. Most autoimmune diseases that occur with secondary Raynaud’s are ANA positive, but many patients with a positive ANA are healthy and will remain so.
  • erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate): A lab test that measures how quickly red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube. If the cells to clump together and fall more rapidly than normal, it can signal there is inflammation somewhere in your child’s body—which is sometimes a marker of autoimmune disease.

After we complete all necessary tests, our experts meet to review and discuss what they have learned about your child's condition. Then we will meet with you and your family to discuss the results and outline the best next steps.

Children's Rheumatology Program

Learn more about our Rheumatology Program.