Winter is tough and mean to some people. Yes, we love the long walks in snowy days, but some people really struggle to make it to spring. Cold temperatures make us depressed and cold, and we really miss hot summer weather.
For a small group of people, cold winter temperatures are the last concern. Have you ever heard of Raynaud’s Disease?
It’s a condition in which some body parts turn numb and cold when temperatures drop. It usually affects fingers and toes, and these body parts change color and become bright white. Sometimes they turn yellow and blue.
Cold weather narrows small arteries, restricting the flow of blood in that area. Vasospasm may cause numbness, a prickly sensation and pain (after your fingers warm up).
“With cold exposure, the body is trying to pull blood towards the core and it wants to supply blood to the core organ systems, like the heart and the lungs, so the extremities suffer in the process,” explained Dr. Ashima Makol, a rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
The eye-opening story of Rachel Smith
Smith, 32, had Raynaud attacks in her finger, toes, and ears. Her fingers would turn pale, and she loses every sensation in that area. The pale shade is followed by pain.
“It feels like the tingling when your hand falls asleep, but magnify that by a thousand,” Smith said.
The 32-year-old has the same attacks when she reaches into the freezer or holds a cold drink. She doesn’t even have to go outside.
“The ears are the worst,” said Smith. “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.”
Many people don’t understand the severity of the problem and it’s really frustrating. Their only explanation is that she is too sensitive to winter weather. But, “it’s a legit disease.”
Treatment for Raynaud’s Disease
About 5-10% of all Americans deal have Raynaud’s disease. Only one in ten Americans seek professional help. Women are nine times more likely to develop the condition when compared to men. Raynaud’s isn’t dangerous, but it will definitely affect your everyday life.
Experts have yet to find a cure for Raynaud’s. You can handle the symptoms in multiple ways. First, cover your arms and legs every time you go out. Soak affected body parts in warm water to relieve the tingling and pain.
If your attacks are serious, consider using alpha-1 blockers, calcium channel blockers, and other vasodilators.
Consult your doctor and they will determine what’s best for you. Sufferers also use topical ointments that improve the flow of blood and cardiac output while keeping blood pressure under control.
Sympathectomy is also a solution. It’s a nerve surgery required to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. This procedure is not always successful and patients are sometimes advised to inject certain chemicals to regulate their vasoconstriction.
Experts at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute have provided some recommendations in the treatment of Raynaud’s:
- Protect your body from cold temperatures
- Avoid emotional stress and rely on a stronger stress-coping mechanism
- Avoid medicines and activities that worsen or trigger the attacks
- Be more active and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes. Secondhand smoke is also a trigger.
Rachel is well prepared for the upcoming winter months, and she won’t let the disease to destroy her holiday spirit.