For those with cold hands

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For those with cold hands

Postby rubylea on October 9th, 2008, 12:19 pm

Raynaud's Syndrome/Phenomenon: My Amazing Technicolor Dream Hands
Jul 28 '04 (Updated Aug 08 '05)

The Bottom Line Hah! I'm Ilene Iciclehands!

Cold hands, warm heart, the saying goes. But my hands get beyond cold.

A few years ago I began to notice that my fingers, especially my ring fingers, would lose color and go numb. It often took hours for the feeling and color to come back. I just figured I needed some more meat on my bones. While this was true, there was more to it than that.
Just going into the freezer section of the grocery store made my fingers go numb.

I'd sometimes wear gloves during class in high school. I'd put on heavy gloves before leaving at the end of the day, but even the minute-long trek to car out in Albany, NY winter weather would do the trick. I wouldn't be able to feel the steering wheel with several of my digits.

It turns out I have Raynaud's Syndrome, also called Raynaud's Phenomenon- yep, I'm phenomenal, it's scientifically proven!

It's a weird condition that brought me the loving moniker "mutated freak" by my best friend, in jest, of course.

My fingernails sometimes turn blue, as if stained by blueberry juice. Another fun thing that happens is if I'm a bit chilly, the pads of my fingers will wrinkle up like I've been soaking in the bathtub.

When anyone is exposed to cold, the body's normal response is to slow the loss of heat, and so it tries to conserve its core temperature by moving blood from surface arteries to those deeper in the body. People with Raynaud's experience spasmic contractions of the small blood vessels (arterioles) supplying blood to the fingers and toes. The arteries may even collapse. As a result, the blood supply is restricted and the multi-colored finger fun begins.

Potential dangers
While in and of itself the disease is just an annoyance with no serious consequences as long as efforts are made to stay warm, it is associated with some other, more serious conditions. These include scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, or in my case, lupus. Lupus is a kind of ambiguous disease as far as I understand, at least for borderline cases like me. Sometimes, when I get cold I get easily fatigued and all I want to do is curl up in a sweatshirt, get under the covers, and go to sleep. I need to do all I can to conserve body heat and energy.

While gloves are an obvious must, wearing a hat and warm coat have also become imperative. A warm core means warm extremities.

In the summer, life is a lot easier, except for when the air conditioning is on full blast! Wearing a tank top means also carrying around a cardigan or sweatshirt.

Since seeing a rheumatologist in 2000, I've been put on Plaquenil and Norvasc, which keep the blood flowing through my arteries and veins much better. It does lower my already normal-to-low blood pressure, so I have to be careful when standing up quickly.

Skiing is still difficult. I wear the warmest gloves I can, but still need to take frequent breaks, or else my hands become numb, but so cold that I feel pain. It happens to my toes, too.

Though the medicine helps a lot, I still need to take preventative measures like those mentioned above. Attacks have been much less severe.

Since being diagnosed with Raynaud's Syndrome, I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism. After taking synthroid and bringing my TSH levels back to normal, I have been able to tolerate the cold much better. I can go much longer in the cold winter weather without symptoms, which means just stepping outside doesn't necessarily mean an attack lasting hours. And being in air conditioning in the summer feels good, and not an arctic blast shocking my entire system. I no longer fear the freezer section of the supermarket.

While the weird symptoms can feel isolating, Raynaud's is actually quite common. The National Institute of Health estimates that Raynaud's phenomenon affects 5-10% of the general population in the Untied States, though it is more prominent among women.

If you think you may have Raynaud's I'd suggest stocking up on gloves (yea, sometimes they're even necessary indoors!!!), hats, and warm clothing. If prevention isn't enough, you should see your primary care doctor, who may suggest the appropriate specialist for you, if needed.

While there is no cure, proper prevention and medicines can help a lot. And it's a great excuse to snuggle.
rubylea
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For those with cold hands

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