What is Raynaud’s Disease? (Pronounced: Raz-nohz)
What are the symptoms?
Fingers and toes go white and numb in response to cold temperatures and stress. The main noticeable effects are a discoloration of the fingers or toes, often just effecting the end of the appendage. As they are warmed, the numbness disappears and you are left with a prickly or stinging type of paid (depending on how long the occurrence).
What is happening in your body?
The small arteries narrow and constrict the blood flow to the affected area (vasospasm). I couldn’t find a reason why some people are affected with this, but it is basically cause by the body’s overreaction to cold and stress. It is not linked to other diseases or a precursor to anything else, as far as I found through my research.
I still remember the first time I experienced this phenomenon two years prior. I was bringing groceries in the house on a particularly cold day and as I set them down I noticed the tips of my fingers had turned white and I could no longer feel them. The sensation is strange; the top half of two of my fingers became lifeless and instead of being able to perform nimble precise movements, it was having two corpses attached to the end of my fingers. Essentially, the areas effected turn a deathly white colour, become lifeless and you lose your dexterity. I immediately called my dad, but he had no idea what I was talking about. He could tell I was upset and calmed me down like dads’ do best; with logic and distraction. As we talked the colour and feeling started to come back with an awful stinging pain.
Raynaud’s disease is more of an annoyance than anything else, especially when living in a cold climate like Canada. It has prevented me from being able to rock climb outdoors on crisp September mornings. It also was a huge factor in me having to abandon my attempt to summit Island Peak, in Nepal. Some of the people in our group’s hands were sweating in their gloves, yet my hands froze and I had to turn around a couple hours from the summit. Better gloves can help, but they are not always a solution, and I find that even just brief exposure from taking off a glove can cause the effect to quickly set in and putting the glove back on will not make it go away.
Combat Raynaud’s by: