Raynaud’s Phenomenon

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. 

(photo from Wikipedia)

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?

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5 Responses to Raynaud’s Phenomenon

  1. tellthejourney says:

    Hi there, I stumbled upon your blog after googling “Reynaud’s longitudinal ridges”, lol. I have had Reynaud’s since childhood and can’t give you any useful advice in managing it, sorry.

    I just wanted to say that you really have to pressure your doctor to test you thouroughly for auto-immune diseases (which also can affect thyroid function). I have RA but it only became problematic last year and guess what? My new doctor thinks my old doctor missed a lot of stuff and is now testing me for lupus.

    You are a young woman with some strange symptoms! I hope everything works out for you and your Reynaud’s slows down. 🙂

  2. jim says:

    It appears we are on a verge of findings that treatment for hypothyroidism may also need to include T3, in addition to T4.

    This article contains link to the actual research findings:
    http://thyroid.about.com/b/2010/05/17/t3-superior-t4-levothyroxine-hypothyroidism-thyroid.htm

  3. sadie says:

    Hi! I just stumbled across your blog. Have you been tested for Hashimoto’s disease? It’s the leading cause of underactive thyroid in the U.S. and it can cause Raynaud’s syndrome. Also, a lot of people with Hashimoto’s disease have secondary Sjogren’s. I have Hashimoto’s myself. Just didn’t want you to worry too much, since both Hashi’s and Sjogrens are usually a lot milder than lupus or scleroderma.

  4. Mallory says:

    Hello! I also just came across your blog. In fact, I am 17 years old and have been suffering from raynaud’s disease since I was about 13. I am a competitive runner on the high school and verge of college level and I find it EXTREMELY difficult to find gear to keep me warm while on long training runs outside in winter. While indoors and sleeping I wear ski socks to prevent my sores from lack of blood supply from getting larger. I also am thinking about investing in Asics Kayano socks, which I hear are fabulous for keeping heat in. Other than that, I just wear gloves about everywhere I go and try to avoid long periods outdoors. I feel your pain! I can’t tell you how many times I have cried also!

    best of luck.

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