Do your fingers turn bright white or even blue after just a few minutes in the cold? Are your hands and toes always chilly, no matter what you do?
If so, you could be one of the 200,000 Americans with Raynaud’s disease.
This little-known disease is shockingly common, though most people have never heard of it.
Even folks who employ every trick in the book to keep the house warm might still have trouble staying cozy if they have Raynaud’s, especially during the winter.
The condition affects your circulation and makes it hard to get heat flowing to your outer extremities.
It’s worse during cold weather, but a bout of Raynaud’s can just as easily be brought on in the summer by too-cold air conditioning, or a dip in an unheated pool.
Check out the symptoms below if any of this sounds like it could be you.
And if you suspect you might have Raynaud’s, contact your doctor to learn about the best precautions to take to keep your body temperature cozy.
What Is Raynaud’s?
Raynaud’s disease, also called Raynaud’s syndrome or simply Raynaud’s, is a common condition that affects around 200,000 Americans.
The main hallmark is that the small blood vessels in the skin contract more than they should in the cold, thus cutting off blood flow to some parts of the body.
It’s not usually dangerous, but it can be intensely uncomfortable and put you at risk for other complications if not properly handled.
What Are The Symptoms Of Raynaud’s?
Sign #1: Fingers And Toes Turn Bluish-White
According to the Mayo Clinic, the first sign that you’re having a Raynaud’s attack is a sudden change of color.
Your finger and toes, the tip of your nose, and any other extremities might turn pale or white because blood isn’t flowing through them.
As the area becomes more oxygen-deprived, it might also start to develop a blue tinge, a sign that not enough blood is circulating.
Sign #2: Your Hands And Feet Are Always Cold
You might be sitting in your nice, cozy living room drinking a cup of hot tea, but your hands are still cold!
One of the most common symptoms for Raynaud’s sufferers is the feeling that your hands and feet can never get warm, because your clamped-down blood vessels are keeping the body heat out.
Even when you aren’t having more severe symptoms, it’s a good idea to wear socks and warm clothes to keep your body warm and encourage those clamped up blood vessels to open up and let the warmth in.
Sign #3: Numbness And Tingling
Have you ever accidentally crossed your legs too long, and then been unpleasantly surprised by an attack of “pins and needles”?
The same thing happens with Raynaud’s, but all you need to do is go out in the cold.
When your body cuts off blood flow, it also automatically shuts off your sense of touch in those areas, which makes you feel numb.
Blood flowing again forces the nerve endings to wake up, which causes that annoying prickling sensation.
Sign #4: Reduced Sensitivity In Fingers And Toes
People with Raynaud’s might also struggle with their fine motor skills when their hands get chilly.
That means they can move their hands and fingers just fine, but it might be tricky to do anything requiring fingertips, like buttoning up a coat or turning the page of a book.
In this tech-savvy time, it also might mean that you struggle a lot with your touch-screen phone, which might not even register your touch if your fingertips are cold enough.
What Can Cause Raynaud’s?
Risk #1: Working With Power Tools
Raynaud’s can strike anyone at any age, but there are a few risk factors.
For example, secondary Raynaud’s (a version of the disease that one isn’t born with) is very common in construction workers and anyone else who regularly uses power tools like a drill or an electric sander.
It’s not totally understood, but this may be because the repeated vibration of these tools can cause trauma to the blood vessels. The constant shock might also encourage the body to restrict blood flow to those areas in order to avoid injury.
Risk #2: Smoking
We all know that smoking is to blame for all sorts of health hazards, but it’s tough to understand what cigarettes have to do with your fingers and toes at first.
The explanation isn’t pleasant: cigarettes contain poisonous carbon monoxide, which damages the insides of your blood vessels.
The first to be damaged are the vessels in your fingers and toes, which might cause or exacerbate Raynaud’s.
Risk #3: Exposure To Cold Weather
People who spend a lot of time out in the cold are a lot more susceptible to Raynaud’s, partially because attacks are only triggered by cold weather.
Interestingly, Raynaud’s also appears to be common in people whose ancestors came from cold countries like Norway or Russia, so it might actually be an evolutionary self-preservation mechanism the body employs if you’re someone who is out in the cold a lot or lives in a cold climate.