Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reynaud's Syndrome

It's a slow news day here apparently....

I was driving home on this cold, dampy day when my fingers went white. I've had this happen for years and years now when my hands get cold. It's worse in weather like this: chilly, damp and about 50 degrees. The entire sides and tips of one or two of my fingers on my left hand (rarely my right hand) go completely white and numb. It's a very odd sensation, but no particularly frightning or anything that extreme. It's a nuisance really. It takes about 15-20 minutes for this blood flow to return to my fingers. Only a few years ago, with the advent of the Internet and my ability to search such things as "white fingers on cold days" did I learn that I have a rare condition called Reyanud's Syndrome, and affects approximately 3% of the population.

The Mayo Clinic describes it best:

Doctors don't completely understand the cause of Raynaud's attacks, but blood vessels in the hands and feet appear to overreact to cold temperatures or stress:

-Cold temperatures. When your body is exposed to cold temperatures, your extremities lose heat. Your body slows down blood supply to your fingers and toes to preserve your body's core temperature. Your body specifically reduces blood flow by narrowing the small arteries under the skin of your extremities. In people with Raynaud's, this normal response is exaggerated.

-Stress. Stress causes a similar reaction to cold in the body, and likewise the body's response may be exaggerated in people with Raynaud's.

Blood vessels in spasm

With Raynaud's, arteries to your fingers and toes go into what's called vasospasm. This narrows your vessels dramatically and temporarily limits blood supply. Over time, these same small arteries may also thicken slightly, further limiting blood flow. The result is that affected skin turns a pale and dusky color due to the lack of blood flow to the area. Once the spasms go away and blood returns to the area, the tissue may turn red before returning to a normal color.

Cold temperatures are most likely to trigger an attack. Exposure to cold can be as simple as putting your hands under a faucet of running cold water, taking something out of the freezer or exposure to cold air. For some people, exposure to cold temperatures isn't necessary. Emotional stress alone can cause an episode of Raynaud's.

You're more likely to suffer from Reynaud's if you're a woman and live in cold climates (that would be me).
It starts like this. Half of one finger turns completely white.

After about 15 minutes the blood flow begins to return, from my palm towards my finger tip.

Then finally all the blood flow returns and my finger turns red (it never turns blue).

Sometimes I'll get this on my nose, or my left big toe (strange?). It doesn't hurt and the doctor doesn't think much of it since I've had it for a long time. If you develop Reyanuad's later in life you might also be suffering from autoimmune disorders and should have it checked out. Mostly it's just a sign I need to wear gloves and keep the heat set to 73 in the house.

1 comment:

Weekend Cowgirl said...

My best friend has this and two of her three daughters have it also.


Related Posts with Thumbnails