You think you’re dressed warmly for the cold wintry day. You step outside and your feel your toes go numb.
You head to the refrigerated section of the grocery store. You feel a chill and see your fingertips turn white, then blue.
Even holding onto a glass of ice water leads to you having to run your hands under warm water.
What was my first Lupus symptom? Raynaud’s Phenomenon.
Raynaud’s (pronounced ray-NOHZ) is a disorder that affects the arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to different parts of your body. For people who have Raynaud’s, the blood vessels in the fingers and toes spasm and constrict when they get cold or you feel chilled so that the blood cannot flow to the appendages. Usually it affects your fingers, but in about 40% of people, it affects the toes also.
So, once you lose the blood flow the affected areas turn white, then blue or purple. After the blood flow returns, your skin will turn red and can throb or tingle. Or be painful, which isn’t too fun. In really severe cases where the blood flow is stopped for an extended period, it can cause sores or tissue death (do NOT google this).
Raynaud’s without a disease causing it is called Primary Raynaud’s. My mom also has Raynaud’s and so I just thought I had inherited it from her. This is what I thought I had for years before being diagnosed with Lupus. Raynaud’s can also be caused by a disease (such as Lupus or RA), it is then called Secondary Raynaud’s. Since my mom does not have a disease causing her Raynaud’s, she has Primary. Since mine is caused by Lupus, I have Secondary. Got it?
There are some medications available, but there are also simple things people can do to prevent attacks:
- Keep your hands and feet warm. Duh. It would seem like a no brainer, but it is harder than you think. Having Lupus and Raynaud’s makes me run a little colder than normal people. Sometimes I just get CHILLED while warmly clothed and it causes me to have an attack. I have had them during the summer, while sitting on my couch with a blanket across my lap, even after stepping out of a warm shower. I have invested in gloves, mittens and lots of warm clothing. I just try to stay dry and warm!
- Try not to have too much caffeine, and DON’T SMOKE.
- Keep your stress levels low, as stress can cause attacks.
- Buy hand and foot warmer packs and keep them in handy spots. They are super inexpensive and great to keep around in cold weather.
Unfortunately, it is possible that the more attacks you have, the worse it can get. I have learned that this is true. I’m hoping this winter to keep warm, and keep the attacks under control so I don’t have to go on yet another medication.
If you see me bundled up like an Eskimo or running with gloves on in 50 degree weather, you’ll know why!