Ask Dr. Nandi: What you need to know about Raynaud's disease

Posted at 8:45 PM, Feb 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-12 20:45:09-05

Are your fingers and toes sensitive to cold weather? If so, you might have a blood vessel disorder called Raynaud's disease.

We’ve all been there at some point. In the middle of winter, outside shoveling snow or walking your dog or taking part in outdoor festivities, and your hands and toes start to feel numb and cold.

Now that’s your body’s normal response as it tries to conserve heat. But for folks who have Raynaud's disease, the cold causes their blood vessels to overreact. So they shrink and narrow more than normal and a whole lot faster.

What happens is not enough blood supply gets to the surface of the skin, which can then cause affected areas to turn white or blue. Now it mainly affects fingers and toes, but in some people, the nose, ears and lips are affected however these cases are very rare.

For most people, it’s more annoying than dangerous. Affected areas can feel numb or prickly. And as they warm back up, throbbing, stinging and tingling might be felt.

I personally don’t have Raynaud's but some of my patients do and I’ve heard it can be quite painful.

Now, in some cases, Raynaud's can be dangerous. You could end up with a blocked artery that leads to skin sores or ulcers, or you might end up with gangrene, which is dead tissue. But this is very rare.

If you have Raynaud’s, you’ll want to know what type of you have.

The more common and mild type is called Primary Raynaud's. The other is Secondary Raynaud's or Raynaud's phenomenon. This type is caused by an underlying problem like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. And it’s usually more serious.

So be sure to talk to a doctor about your symptoms. In the meantime, be sure to bundle up when outdoors and head back in when you start to feel too cold.