The past 10 years have seen the publication of results from several multicentre clinical trials in primary and systemic sclerosis (SSc)-related Raynaud phenomenon. The publication of these studies has occurred as a result of new insights into the pathogenesis of Raynaud phenomenon, which are directing new treatment approaches, and increased international collaboration between clinicians and scientists. Although the pathogenesis of Raynaud phenomenon is complex, abnormalities of the blood vessel wall, of neural control mechanisms and of intravascular (circulating) factors are known to interact and contribute. Key players relevant in drug development include nitric oxide, endothelin-1, alpha adrenergic receptor activation, abnormal signal transduction in vascular smooth muscle, oxidative stress and platelet activation. The main advances in diagnosis have been a clearer understanding of autoantibodies and of abnormal nailfold capillary patterns as independent predictors of SSc, and widespread use and increased availability of capillaroscopy. The ultimate aim is to translate the advances made in the pathophysiology and early diagnosis into development of treatments to prevent and reverse digital vascular dysfunction and injury. This Review provides an update of the pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of Raynaud phenomenon. Current and future treatment approaches are discussed, and some key unanswered questions are highlighted.