Do your toes or fingers turn yellow, blue and numb when they are cold? You may have a condition called Raynaud’s.
According to the non-profit Raynaud’s Association: “Raynaud’s Disease (aka Raynaud’s Phenomenon or Raynaud’s Syndrome) causes an interruption of blood flow to the fingers, toes, nose, and/or ears when a spasm occurs in the blood vessels of these areas. Spasms are caused by exposure to cold or emotional stress. It can cause pain, numbness and throbbing of the extremities. In severe cases, the area may develop ulcerations and infections, which can lead to gangrene.”
Raynaud’s affects 5-10% of the U.S. population (approx. 20 million people). The majority (90%) of Raynaud’s patients are women. Some researchers estimate as many as 20% of all women in their childbearing years have Raynaud’s.
Researchers are still trying to nail down the cause of Raynaud’s. In some causes it may be tied to an underlying medical condition such as sclerodoma or lupus. This is called “secondary Raynaud’s.” However, most people affected (90% have primary Raynaud’s)
While statistics show that many people have Raynaud’s, it’s reported that only 1 in 10 sufferers will become aware their discomfort is medically related and actively seek treatment. They may dismiss their condition as “poor circulation.”
The Raynaud’s Association website notes, “To date, there is no medication that eliminates Raynaud’s attacks, but there are some medications that decrease their severity or frequency. Sufferers are advised to avoid cold temperatures and stress, which is not always practical.”
I suffer from Raynaud’s. It is not just in the cold weather. It could be in the middle of the summer and I may be enjoying a glass of iced tea when suddenly my fingers will turn numb and yellow. Or, I will be in an air conditioned supermarket and find myself rushing outside to warm up. Here are some tips I’ve learned to manage my Raynaud’s:
- Carry warm gloves or hand warmers with you all the time, even in the summer. I store them in my purse, my car and jacket pockets.
- If your Raynaud’s flares up, run your hands under warm, not hot, water, and massage.
- Hug yourself and hold hands with your spouse or significant other. Sharing body heat helps!
- Carry a coozy or other mug/glass holder to protect your hands and fingers when you drink cold beverages
- Keep moving. Wiggling your fingers and toes, stretching, walking and any kind of light exercise will help. I find my Raynauds is worse when I am sedentary and sluggish. I am a big fan of warm yoga.
Lynn Wunderman, Founder and Chairman of the Raynaud’s Association joins me October 17th to discuss this condition and how you can manage it. Twitter@raynaudsorg
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