A recent University of Washington article on Raynaud’s does an excellent job of describing what occurs during a Raynaud’s attack – and that’s rare content on the web.
Most people don’t understand that what happens to the body during a typical Raynaud’s attack is actually a normal body reaction to cold or stress. It’s just that those living with Raynaud’s have a much lower threshold. This reaction is a version of the “fight or flight syndrome.” When the body feels it’s in danger of extreme cold or stress, the blood vessels in the extremities shut down in order to send blood to the body’s vital organs to protect them. For a normal person, this might occur at -20 or -30° or when someone puts a gun to their head. For a Raynaud’s sufferer, it can happen at 60 or 70° or after a really bad day at work. That’s why it’s important not to just warm the extremities, but the full body, especially the core, to help deter the reaction.
Grace Harmon, the author, describes the first time she witnessed a Raynaud’s attack during a cold shower and, like many Frosties, imagined all kinds of serious circulatory or nerve disorders being involved. Before exploring her symptoms with the medical community, which many of us know can be a very challenging and sometimes unproductive process, she discussed them with her mother. Fortunately her mother had the immediate answer, as she also has Raynaud’s. Interesting how often it’s faster to get a diagnosis from a fellow Frostie than getting doctor to recognize the condition.
The article goes on to describe the impact of Raynaud’s on the sympathetic nervous system, and how the cause for most people living with Raynaud’s – those with the primary form of the disorder – is unknown. Others (fewer than 10%) have Raynaud’s as a byproduct of a more serious autoimmune disease and symptoms are interrelated to the underlying primary disorder.
It’s a good read, and we welcome more informed content on Raynaud’s to help increase awareness of the condition. Here’s the full article: Raynaud’s disease: When you literally can’t handle the cold