I’ve always been told I’m a pansy when it comes to pain. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been reduced to tears when my hands get so cold they had to endure the totureous thawing process. My friends and family give me grief for overreacting and making a big deal out of something that everyone suffers though – and with a lot less fuss than I do. After today though, I feel vindicated. My curious ailment has a name! Not sure if it’s a good name or a bad one, but at least I’m not a pansy.
A month or so ago I called my mother, an RN, saying that my fingertips were numb and had turned white. I wasn’t exposed to the cold or anything – simply driving to work. The episode lasted for maybe 15 minutes and then I was fine. We figured I had just slept wrong and pinched a nerve or something and didn’t think any more of it. Well, it’s happened a few more times since then, and yesterday I had a really bad “attack”.
About 20-30 minutes after my run, I was hanging out watching the end of Kirk’s football game and my fingertips started to go numb. All eight fingers (thumbs were not affected) turned bright white/yellow and we’re completely numb for about an hour and a half. Scary! Gradually color started coming back into them, but in a really odd fashion. For example, on my left hand my ring and pointer finger began to show signs of pink first. On my right hand my middle and ring finger turned red while the others remained white. In fact, one of my pointer fingers had a line straight down middle (vertically) where one side was white and the other red.
My hands looked exactly like the top two photos in this set. My digits never tuned quite as blue as the lower two photos, but my nails certainly did get a blue tinge.
I vaguely remembered reading about Raynaud’s Syndrome in one of my race packets at the Baltimore Running Festival and Googled it when I got home. Turns out it’s a vasospastic disorder that causes discoloration of the fingers when exposed to cold or stress. Interesting factoids that fit my symptoms: brittle nails with longitudinal ridges (my ridges are out of control now causing lots of splitting) and a tie to hypothyroidism (I’ve been on meds for an underactive thyroid gland since I was 14).
The scary thing is that it’s also tied to Scleroderma and Lupus. Apparently there are different types of Raynaud’s Phenomenon – Raynaud’s Disease which is a stand-alone symptom or Raynaud’s Syndrome which occurs secondary to a wide variety of other conditions (read more about Raynaud’s here).
What’s unclear is if this is happening because of my thyroid (as in, do I need to have my meds adjusted?) or if it’s a side effect that can happen whether I’m properly medicated or not. Or, alternatively, should I have myself checked for an autoimmune disorder?
Apparently this phenomenon effects runners a lot. We’re out in the elements with our heart rate elevated and then abruptly stop, pull off our sweaty gloves, leaving our damp hands exposed to the cold (that’s exactly the mistake I made yesterday, it wasn’t super cold, but apparently cold enough).
My episode yesterday didn’t hurt at all, but I’ve certainly had times in the past where I was in screaming pain (I once attended a Redskin’s game when it was 8 degrees out and my hands and feet were so painful I nearly asked to be taken to the ER). I didn’t dare take off my gloves to check their color that night (too cold), but it’s safe to say it hurt … a lot.
Here are two other runners who blogged about their experiences with rainbow colored fingers:
Cold Hands Warm Heart?
Strange Occurrence After Running – Raynaud’s Syndrome?
I guess a trip to the Dr. is in the cards… I’d hate to have Lupus and not know it!
(photo from http://www.cslacker.com)
Anyone else have experince with this? What do you do to prevent attacks?