What is Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

I want to start writing blog posts explaining what my secondary illnesses are. This task might take me a while to get through – because I want to ensure they are thorough and easy for you to understand. 

Raynauds Phenomenon, or Raynauds Syndrome or simply just Raynauds. This is the illness that makes me cold, it’s the illness that has given me a love of blankets, fluffy socks and the ability to sniff out any nearby heat sources. Although it’s a running joke that I’m rarely seen without my beloved blanket it’s actually a serious condition and extremely unpleasant. 

There is two types of Raynauds: primary (the most common) and secondary. Oddly enough in Raynauds, having the secondary form is the worse of the two. For me, Raynauds is secondary meaning it was caused by Lupus. Despite it being secondary and having 3 other secondary illnesses – Raynauds is right behind Lupus in the terms of torturing me. 

I was diagnosed with Raynauds in November of 2015 however my mother believes this is a condition I’ve had since a child – of course it was much milder then as it is now. If I were to touch you, I’d make you jump out of your skin – I really am that cold to touch. 

Raynauds Phenomenon is poor circulation to various parts of the body, most commonly the hands and feet. The symptoms are brought on by cold temperatures, although being outside will instantly trigger my Raynauds so will drinks with ice and walking down the chilled and frozen sections of a supermarket. Stress and anxiety are other known triggers of symptoms. 

A Raynauds attack for me typically makes my hands and feet look like they belong to a corpse. It goes in 3 stages:

  • Red with pink spots
  • Purple
  • White fingers and toes 

However, Raynauds doesn’t just affect my hands and feet, it can affect my whole body. For example, if I have a drink with ice I will shiver uncontrollably. This sort of ‘attack’ can also come from a slight breeze, simply from walking down a chilled/frozen section of a supermarket or from being outdoors for a prolonged period of time. It can last from 20 minutes to over an hour. Raynauds also affects my nose, yes you read that correctly, my nose gets very cold too! 

The ‘warming up’ process is extremely painful and on some occasions has brought tears to my eyes. The only way I can think to describe the pain is: when you played out in the snow for hours as a child and then got straight into a hot bath. It is also mixed with pins and needles and my fingers slightly swell. I typically scrunch my hands into a ball because just moving my fingers during this process is complete hell. For my feet, I just sit down and don’t move until I can feel them again. It’s during this time my hands go a bright red, and I mean bright, it’s like someone opened the flood…or should I say blood gates and every blood cell I have is rushing to get to my hands and feet. 

Raynauds affects many aspects of my life, I have two pairs on gloves in my handbag. On t-shirt weather for you, I will still be wearing my very much loved leather jacket and a bulky scarf. I struggle to distinguish water temperature, take batheing for example: I happily sit in luke warm water because to me it feels like a normal hot bath. Showers are the same, I turn the water to a low heat. If someone has filled the sink up for washing up I immediately add cold because the water just feels scolding to me. I sleep with 3 blankets and have a fleece bed sheet. 

Raynauds is a common condition and affects 20% of the worldwide population. It is more common in women than men. Although complications are rare, they can happen. They are: 

  • Ulcers 
  • Scarring
  • Gangrene (tissue death)
  • Scleroderma (hardening of the skin)

There is treatment for Raynauds, most of the time you can control it yourself by avoiding the things that trigger you and wrapping up warm. If you smoke, you are advised to stop as smoking can affect circulation – I didn’t find any change in my Raynauds from stopping smoking but I can guarantee if I carried on, it would have eventually progressed. If you are unable to control it yourself there is a medication called Nifedipine, which is a medication that encourages your blood vessels to widen. Although rare, surgery is sometimes needed if you don’t respond to treatment. The surgery is to repair or unblock blood vessels, this is to protect the certain body part affected becoming more damaged. 

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