Most people’s fingers and toes tend to get chilly pretty easily when it’s very cold out. But for some unlucky people, their extremities can get cold and go numb even in less-than-frigid temperatures. It’s due to a condition called Raynaud’s disease.
Women are more likely to have this affliction than men, and — surprise, surprise — it occurs more commonly in people who live in a cold climate. For people with Raynaud’s disease, smaller arteries that supply blood to the skin narrow, limiting blood circulation to affected areas, usually the fingers and toes, but Raynaud’s can also affect the nose and ears.
During an attack of Raynaud’s, which can come on from feeling chilly or stress, the fingers and toes feel cold. They also begin to turn white or blue.
As circulation improves, they may turn red, throb, tingle or swell.
If you suffer from Raynaud’s disease, you know how unpleasant these symptoms can be, and it’s really not the same as just having cold fingers.
Here are five things only people with Raynaud’s disease understand.
1. You’re Used To Blotchy-Looking Flesh
Although other people might go into a panic when they see how much your hands have changed colors, you’re used to the drastic changing of shades your skin goes through. The discoloration is actually caused by the spasms of blood vessels. Skin looks pale when the vessels close and red when they reopen. Skin may also appear blue when it is lacking oxygen.
2. You Carry Gloves Everywhere
The cold is your mortal enemy, so you know to carry gloves or mittens around everywhere you go. That applies year-round, because, you know, air conditioning.
3. You Love Heat Sources
Hot mugs, hand dryers in the bathroom, warm blankets, a hot water faucet — they’re all your best friends.
4. You’re Careful Around Cold Beverages
Even the touch of a cold bottle fresh from the cooler can make your fingers go numb right then and there — the same goes for air conditioning, too.
5. Socks Are Also Essential
What happens to your fingers can also happen to your toes. So you know to wear thick socks and cozy shoes, even when it isn’t quite wintertime yet.
What Causes Raynaud’s?
Doctors don’t fully understand Raynaud’s attacks, except that hands and feet seem to overreact to stress and cold. Over time, the arteries may thicken a bit, which limits blood flow even more.
The condition has two types. Primary Raynaud’s can be very mild and resolve on its own. Secondary Raynaud’s is caused by an underlying problem. It’s less common than Raynaud’s, but often more serious. And it shows up later in life than the primary version.
Secondary Raynaud’s can be caused by artery problems, carpal tunnel tissues, connective tissue diseases, smoking, hand and foot injuries or medications such as beta blockers.
If you do experience symptoms, please see a medical professional, as severe Raynaud’s can cause tissue damage, sores, dead tissue and potential amputation.
This condition is more common in colder climates and in people with a family history of it.
If you suffer from Raynaud’s, make sure to bundle up, keep your air conditioner high and warm your car before you get in. Basically, stay warm!