Thursday, January 23, 2014

Raynaud's Syndrome

I live in a place that is cold at least 4 months of the year.  It may not be as cold as other places in Canada, but when you have a disease that is affected by the cold, you are certainly aware of the dips in temperature.

 What is Raynaud's Syndrome:

Raynaud's (ray-NOHZ) disease is a condition that causes some areas of your body — such as your fingers, toes, the tip of your nose and your ears — to feel numb and cool in response to cold temperatures or stress. In Raynaud's disease, smaller arteries that supply blood to your skin narrow, limiting blood circulation to affected areas.  Source: Mayo Clinic

If I let myself get cold, my fingers, toes and even my nipples lose all blood flow, turn white and I have no sensation in them.  It's not just a matter of wearing warm socks and gloves (or fur lined bras).  I have to keep my core warm too.  I spend the better part of Nov - March wearing a minimum of 4 layers - tank top, short sleeve t-shirt, long sleeve t-shirt and sweater. If I'm really cold I will add a hoodie or wrap myself up in a blanket.  I wear oven mitts to get things out of the freezer or to hold a bowl or glass that is cold to the touch. We have a bucket full of hand warmers and I use a heated bag every night when I go to bed to keep my hands warm as I fall asleep. I always have gloves and mittens with me, and use the fingerless gloves at the office so that I still type.

Once I do start to warm up, the blood comes rushing back to the area with a lot of pain and discomfort.  It can be like having pins and needles from sitting on your leg for too long, but much more intense. On a bad day I can have 3-4 episodes which is very unpleasant.

I do take a medication that is a calcium channel blocker to help relax and open up the small blood vessels.  It doesn't cure the problem, but it does help decrease the frequency of attacks.

I have lived with this disease for more than a decade now.  I'm still fascinated to watch the transformation of my fingers from regular skin tone to white to bright red as the blood rushes back.  It freaks out cashiers when I hand them money with fingers that look like they belong on a corpse.  While there is no cure, I have found ways to work around it and to minimize the impact on my life.  The only "cure" would be to move somewhere warm where I would never get cold.  Maybe one day.......

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