My pinkie finger on my right hand felt cold, tingly and slightly painful one afternoon in the frozen food section of the grocery store. I looked down at my white, pasty, throbbing finger and had no idea what was wrong. This continued to happen any time my hands or feet would get cold or wet.
After talking to a few other women, they said they had the same symptoms, but had no idea what it was. I scheduled a visit to my doctor and she told me I had was experiencing attacks caused by Raynaud's disease.
What Is Raynaud's?
Raynaud's disease (or Raynaud's syndrome) was named after the French doctor Maurice Raynaud after he recognized the condition in 1862. It causes blood vessels to narrow, which limits circulation to certain areas of your body (especially your fingers and toes, but can also occur in other places such as your nipples), which feel tingly and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress.
These areas must be warmed in order for blood flow to return, then can take up to 15 minutes to feel normal again. You may experience redness and throbbing as this happens. It's slightly painful and there is no way to know when you are going to have an attack. For me, my Raynaud's is particularly painful right before my menstrual cycle, and I'm not the only one.
Who can get Raynaud's?
Approximately 28 million people in the United States have Raynaud's syndrome. While it can affect anyone at any age, it typically starts between the ages of 15 and 40. Women are nine times more likely to suffer from Raynaud's than men, and it also appears to be more common in people who live in colder climates.
Types of Raynaud's
Primary Raynaud's is very mild, and attacks typically don't interfere with daily life. In this case the best thing you can do is try to prevent symptoms or treat them during an attack.
Secondary Raynaud'susually starts later in life, and is common in patients with scleroderma, lupus or arthritis. It is much more serious than primary Raynaud's and can leave you with tissue damage and ulcers.
While there is no cure for Raynaud's at this time, prevention is key, and since everyone who suffers cannot move to a warm climate, it's good to know there are options available.
"The best solution is to live in a warm climate where there are no triggers or symptoms," Dr. John Lindsey of Crossroads Healing Arts in Elkhart, Indiana, told SheKnows. "A more pragmatic way is for those in cold climates to make sure to wear the warmest socks possible and warm, lined gloves when they go out in cold weather."
Lindsey also recommends keeping your home and work environment at a consistent and warm temperature or using prescription vasodilators.
"In functional medicine, we prefer biofeedback as the primary treatment," he explained. "We also use supplements such as L-arginine, which safely improves blood flow to the extremities. In patients with poor blood flow attributed to plaque burden, chelation therapy can be very effective."