Cold and White Fingers and Toes: Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Ever notice that sometimes our hands and/or feet are super cold and look almost white, then turn purple and red?  Especially in the winter or when you are stressed?

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Raynaud’s phenomenon is a very common answer to this question, particularly for women (but it can affect anyone). Sometimes called Raynaud’s disease, its not as scary as it seems unless you have other underlying medical issues that this can be apart of a symptom of.

If you feel these symptoms here is a test: press on your fingers, toes, legs or anywhere that feels like your skin is too cold or numb. Does your skin turn white and take a while to bring back its colour?  That is one way of telling you might be experiencing this phenomenon .

This happens when your blood vessels are constricted (tight) and don’t let enough blood pass through to warm up that area.  Its causes discolouration and in serve cases it can start to deteriorate the the tissues, turning it uclery (yup super medical term there) and can cause tissue death.

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During an attack of Raynaud’s, affected areas of your skin usually first turn white. Then, the affected areas often turn blue and feel cold and numb. As you warm and circulation improves, the affected areas may turn red, throb, tingle or swell. The order of the color changes isn’t the same for everyone, and not everyone experiences all three colors.

What Causes it?

Lots. Mostly cold temperatures (like here in Northwestern Ontario) and stress are the biggest triggers. But anything from other medical issues/diseases, medication, smoking, caffeine; that constricts your blood vessels or gives you blog blood pressure.

Some refer to Primary Raynaud’s disease as “being allergic to coldness”. It often develops in young women in their teens and early adulthood. This is when it occurs without any underlying causes.

Secondary is when it is an associated disease mixed with another condition.

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What Can You Do?

You know when you come in from the cold and your fingers and toes are so cold that the numbness gets a little warm and the warmth feels like daggers and pins? This is another indication of Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Direct heat isn’t the first step like I found out when I was a kid. I would go outside to shovel the snow and come back in and the heat vent was right when you walk in the door: it could feel like I was walking into a wall of bees. I too experience phenonmenon from having low blood pressure, a nervous system disorder and stress (as I type this my pinky finger is white and cold).

What you can do at home:
  • exercise
  • wear layers with warm socks, long pants and sleeves
  • wear slippers in the house
  • reduce smoking
  • reduce caffeine intake
  • have warm baths
  • deal with your stress in a active and productive way
  • get some good gloves for fall and better ones for winter. I highly insist on this just because I also want to see ladies wearing nice fancy gloves with their fashion.

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What I Can Do to Help:

Pedicure and Manicure treatments can help a lot as well. A slow warm up of a warm (not hot) foot and hand bath will ease the pain. Then a hot stone massage will warm your arms, legs, feet and hands while bringing back the circulation with the massage.

Paraffin wax masque treatments also are a nice way to heat up your hands and feet while also deep moisturizing your skin. Moisturizing your skin is very important to keep all tissues from weakening and getting smaller. Dry hands and feet can hurt even more and crack deeper when getting cold.

If you find that your skin stays white, or blue and is starting to have little sores… go see your doctor!

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