PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – As we head toward colder weather, our hands and feet are among the first body parts susceptible to feeling a numbing chill. But that tingling sensation could also be a sign of a disorder that affects an estimated 28 million Americans.
It’s called Raynaud’s and while it’s not usually disabling, Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains it can certainly affect your quality of life.
“So, it would be mainly in the fingertips,” said Geisinger Rheumatologist Jonida Cote. And the toes and sometimes even your nose, ears and lips if you have what’s called Raynaud’s. Dr. Cote said, “That causes narrowing of the blood vessels so there is not good profusion in the arterioles or arteries.”
Dr. Cote treats a fair amount of patients for this condition which is an exaggerated response to cold temperatures and emotional stress. “It presents with discoloration of the fingertips from pale to bluish,” she said.
Besides the weather, handling a cold drink or grabbing something from the freezer or even being exposed to air conditioning can provoke a Raynaud’s reaction. Dr. Cote said, “Then the venous blood cannot get out because of the narrowing of the vessels.”
It’s vital for people suffering from Raynaud’s to wear mittens and heavy socks in colder temperatures to gain a circulatory edge. If suffering symptoms, warm the area with warm and not hot water to improve circulation which can take 15 minutes for normal blood flow to return.
One sign it’s time to see a doctor is if you’re experiencing pain but it’s not the only indication. “When there is ulceration in the digits, that can be a sign of very severe disease,” said Dr. Cote.
Left unchecked, Raynaud’s could lead to a loss of fingers or toes. As for what causes the disorder, that’s still a mystery. “To date there is no specific gene that has been found to be linked to the condition yet.” said Dr. Code. When asked if there is a cure, she replied “There is no cure but there are things that we can do to treat the symptoms.”
Prescription medication is the most common treatment for Raynaud’s. Some underlying conditions like scleroderma or lupus can also trigger Raynaud’s which affects more women than men. It also usually begins between the ages of 15 and 30.