I Feel it in my Fingers, I Feel it in my Toes…Raynaud’s Disease

Sometimes, when you give something a name, it makes it seem more scary. Case in point: after running in cold weather or skiing, even when wearing gloves, my middle finger on both hands turns white at the top. (While it makes it more fun to give someone the finger…it hurts!) Once I warm up, usually by taking a shower or warming my hands, it tingles painfully as the blood returns. Lately, my fingers have been staying white for longer. On Thursday, after a 6 mile run in 40 degree temps (i.e., not that cold!) I changed out of my sweaty clothes and went straight to a strength class. It wasn’t until I arrived at the class that I noticed my fingers were whiter than ever. One of my training partners, who happens to be a nurse, said, “Oh, you have Raynaud’s Syndrome.”

What’s Raynaud’s?

Yikes. There’s something wrong with me! That was my first reaction. But my friend said that it’s not a big deal; she has it too, as does about 5% of the U.S. population, according to an NIH fact sheet. Basically, Raynaud’s is a narrowing of the blood vessels that reduces blood flow to the fingers and toes. The fingers are most commonly affected, although in about 40 percent of people with Raynaud’s, the toes are affected.

raynauds

Photo Courtesy of National Institutes of Health

How do you “get” Raynaud’s?

According to the NIH web site, there are two types of Raynaud’s: primary and secondary. The cause of primary Raynaud’s is unknown, whereas secondary Raynaud’s is caused by a disease, condition, or other factor, and is more severe than primary Raynaud’s. In both types, Raynaud’s “attacks” are triggered by cold temperatures (even mild or brief temperature changes) or stress. Most people find that they can manage the condition with minor lifestyle changes; in some cases, people with secondary Raynaud’s require medication or even surgery to treat the disease. It’s important that you see your doctor immediately if you develop sores on your fingers or toes as these can lead to tissue decay or death, commonly known as gangrene.

Risk factors for primary Raynaud’s:

– Gender. Women are more likely to be affected than men.
– Age. Primary Raynaud’s usually develops before age 30.
– Family history of the disease.
– Living in a cold climate.

Risk factors for secondary Raynaud’s:

– Age. Secondary Raynaud’s usually develops after age 30.
– Diseases that directly damage the arteries or damage the nerves that control the arteries in the hands and feet.
– Injuries to hands/feet.
– Exposure to certain workplace chemicals, such as vinyl chloride (used in the plastics industry).
– Repetitive actions with the hands, such as typing or using vibrating tools.
– Certain medicines, such as migraine, cancer, cold/allergy, birth control pills, or blood pressure medicines.
– Smoking.
– Living in a cold climate.

What can you do about Raynaud’s?

While there’s no cure for Raynaud’s, lifestyle changes can prevent attacks. The primary change is to protect yourself from cold temperatures. You can do this by:

– Wearing a hat, mittens (rather than gloves, as keeping your fingers in contact with each other keeps them warmer and aids in blood flow), warm socks, and layering your clothing.
– Using hand and foot warmers.
– Wearing gloves or mittens before taking food out of the freezer (if cold temperatures severely affect you.)

You can further prevent attacks by:

– Learning ways to handle stress.
– Avoiding medications (listed above) that can trigger attacks.
– Limiting your use of caffeine and alcohol.
– Quitting smoking.

And finally, great news! Include physical activity as part of your healthy lifestyle. Physical activity can increase your blood flow and help keep you warm.

Next time I run in the cold, I’ll be wearing my mittens!

Do you have Raynaud’s?

Comments

  1. I don’t turn white, but after any run I get overbearingly cold and can’t stop shivering for a while. My boyfriend gets the cold hands and feet. I’ll share the tips with him =)
    Liana@RunToMunch recently posted..Making Breakfast More Exciting With belVita Breakfast BiscuitsMy Profile

  2. I have dealt with Reynaud’s for years. Sometimes even going in the grocery store brings it on (they keep those places so cold!). I always wear gloves when running, riding or even walking the dogs (but not to the store), use hand warmers when it’s really cold, and if it does flare up try to circulate blood by moving my hands and fingers.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Roasted Seitan and Vegetables with Quinoa. #Vegan RecipeMy Profile

  3. I’ve never heard of that! I came over here worried that you were dealing with something much worse… I’m so glad it is what it is, as annoying as that sounds. Thanks for the info!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Houston Marathon Plans and GoalsMy Profile

  4. My toes turn white when I get into a hot bath and they hurt/burn. I’ve always wondered if that is Raynaud’s? I don’t notice it any other time. It takes a few minutes for the toes to come back to normal color and stop hurting.
    Jenelle recently posted..Stranger’s AdviceMy Profile

    • Racingtales says:

      Hey Jenelle, that sounds weird. But doesn’t sound like Raynaud’s because it’s related to heat! Odd indeed.

  5. Never heard of it, but sounds uncomfortable! Glad you were able to put a name to it and find out how to manage your symptoms.
    Lisa McClellan recently posted..Kyle’s Krusade Virtual 5K, 10K and Half MarathonMy Profile

  6. Raynauds’s sucks but isn’t unbearable!!! I have dealt with it for 20+ years and only occasionally have a true issue. People you work with/see regularly will get used to the fact that you might leave your gloves on for 30-60 minutes after you have come inside!!!
    I still have too much vanity to wear gloves in the summer at the grocery store and as a result, my hands are white when I check out!!!!
    I just look at it as there are so many worse things I could have to deal with!!!
    Hang in there!!!
    Kim recently posted..Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup for my Sick BoyMy Profile

    • Racingtales says:

      Thanks, Kim. And you’re right, it’s such a small thing to deal with compared with what many others go through. I will keep perspective!

  7. While I’ve never been officially diagnosed, I do have Raynaud’s. It sucks especially during the winter. My hands and feet are never warm enough and the PAIN! It’s like needles. I’m forever in search of the perfect pair of mittens for when I run. Unfortunately I haven’t found them yet but I’m still looking!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..Courage + GiveawayMy Profile

    • Racingtales says:

      Well, I guess at least we can commiserate with one another! I’ll let you know how I do in my mitten search. Perhaps ski mittens are the answer?!

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