Raynaud’s disease: The disorder that causes white or blue fingers

For many people, winter is their least favorite season. It’s the time of cold, windy weather, freezing feet, and unpleasant flu symptoms.

Apparently, winter is also the time when you can get Raynaud’s disease.

It can be triggered by any type of cold, including just holding a chilled drink, or reaching into the freezer for your favorite ice cream.

Rachel Smith, who lives in Sacramento, California, suffers from Raynaud’s disease. In other words, when it’s cold outside, her body overreacts, narrowing the blood vessels in her extremities so much that they turn deathly pale.

Her fingers, toes, and ears become white, then yellow, and eventually blue. She shares with TODAY:

“It feels like the tingling when your hand falls asleep, but magnify that by a thousand.The ears are the worst. If I know I’m going to be outside, and it’s cold or windy, I have to have a beanie. I’ve described it as someone putting a knife in my ear and turning it. It’s very painful.”

About 5% of the U.S. population has this disorder or similar symptoms.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, this condition causes the blood vessels to narrow, when responding to cold or stress, so that little or no blood flows to the affected body parts, such as fingers and toes.

There are two types of Raynaud’s – primary and secondary. The first one happens on its own, and often patients notice it in their 20s. Secondary Raynaud’s happens because of an underlying disease or other factors. It’s called Raynaud’s phenomenon.

While the cause of primary Raynaud’s is still unknown, the secondary one is linked to diseases and conditions that directly damage the arteries. It can also be caused by working with vibrating instruments or taking medications, including beta-blockers.

Raynaud’s disease is easy to self-diagnose, as you can see the color change in your fingers and toes.

Furthermore, doctors can see if you have the primary or the secondary type. As for the treatment, it depends on the severity of the symptoms.

Dr. Ashima Makol, a rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, claims that symptoms “can be mild and manageable… or it can be very severe”. Makol adds that more aggressive treatment includes medications such as calcium channel blockers, which dilate the blood vessels.

Overall, during the freezing season, we all need to keep our core body temperature warm and wear gloves and hats. And that’s exactly how Rachel copes up with her condition. She wears a hoodie all the time and invests in heated gloves that she keeps in her purse everywhere she goes.

“Winter is not my friend. I always have to be prepared for the cold.”

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