Since there’s no single test to diagnose Raynaud’s, doctors generally rely on either witnessing an attack or listening to a patient describe their symptoms. But if their description doesn’t correspond to the text book triad of color changes (white/blue/red) or reference to pain or experience (e.g., numbness) they studied in medical school, Raynaud’s symptoms can easily be shrugged off as no big deal.
Many Frosties (our affectionate nickname for Raynaud’s sufferers) can relate to the way other people respond to them when they are having attacks, or how difficult it can be to avoid being uncomfortable in situations that require no effort for the average person.
So we made a checklist that may offer useful Raynaud’s indicators for sufferers. The list may also prove helpful for friends, family and co-workers to reference in order to take a loved one or a colleague more seriously when they are uncomfortable or appear in pain with no visible explanation.
The list covers three categories:
- Textbook Symptoms
- Other People’s Reactions
- Lifestyle Issues
When exposed to cold temperatures or stress, do your fingers, toes or other extremity (nose, ears and more) ever:
- Become painful
- Skin turns white or blue (or even purplish)
- Go numb or tingle
- Begin to throb or swell
- Skin turns red or pinkish when warm or calm again
Keep in mind that individual thresholds will differ – where one person will experience discomfort at 60 degrees or lower, another sufferer may be uncomfortable at as high as 75 degrees. How we define and relate to stress also varies greatly, so it’s not easy to define the specific triggers that will launch Raynaud’s attacks.
Other People’s Reactions
While not obvious signals one-by-one, if someone regularly has experiences like the ones below, they may indicate that a person should consult a doctor about Raynaud’s:
- Been called “Zombie Hands” or “Corpse Toes” (from fingers/toes turning white)
- Colleague remarks your hands are cold during a hand shake
- Partner/spouse complains you have icy toes in bed
- People stare at you funny for pulling out gloves or a sweater in the grocery store in the summer
You get the idea – there are hundreds of stories people go through with complaints and icy stares like those above. If they happen all the time, there may be a medical explanation for why a person responds to the cold differently than a “normal” person and should seek counsel from a medical professional, preferably a rheumatologist.
Everyday tasks, activities or even wearing seasonal clothing can be challenging for Raynaud’s sufferers. Here are some examples:
- Holding a cold glass or can of soda
- Wearing open-toe shoes, sandals or sleeveless tops
- Reaching into the freezer for frozen foods at home or in the supermarket
- Tolerating air conditioning at the office, restaurants, stores or theatres
- Entering/exiting pools or the beach for swimming
- Breastfeeding a newborn (yes, nipples can be prone to Raynaud’s symptoms!)
For some sufferers, the kitchen can become an obstacle course while constantly needing to touch cold items from the fridge, defrost frozen meat, work with cold vegetables, add ice to pitchers for cold drinks and other meal preparation tasks. The average person takes these activities for granted, but for Frosties, these are painful challenges that spoil their day and make it difficult to function without experiencing painful attacks that can last for minutes or even hours at a time.
Please Share this Post
We hope these examples are useful in helping undiagnosed Frosties seek medical attention. Please share this post with partners, friends, family and fellow workers so that they can better understand the way you experience cold and stress in hopes they become more supportive and tolerant of the needs of Raynaud’s sufferers.