We were very excited to see ABC News promoting Raynaud’s Awareness on both their news and their Good Morning America web sites. The article is titled “Color changes in fingers and toes may be 1st sign of Raynaud’s syndrome.”
It is written by a dermatologist, Dr. Molly Stout, a regular contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit. She suggests bringing symptoms up with a primary care physician or a dermatologist, because she herself specializes in serving patients with the primary autoimmune diseases to which Raynaud’s can be secondary, such as lupus, scleroderma and dermatomyositis. While some dermatologists who focus on these diseases may be adept at diagnosing Raynaud’s – and we admit Dr. Stout is quite knowledgeable on the subject – we suggest consulting with a rheumatologist, as these specialists regularly treat the primary autoimmune disorders most closely associated with Raynaud’s.
The article does a good job of covering the basics, some of which are often missed in articles on Raynaud’s, including:
- A clear explanation of Raynaud’s – “It’s really an exaggerated cold response,” Dr. Stout explains. It’s normal for the body to shut down the blood vessels in the extremities in order to conserve body heat and protect the vital organs in our core. This process is often referred to as the Fight or Flight Response that the body experiences when exposed to extremely cold temperatures or stress. It’s just that for a person with Raynaud’s, the threshold for this response is lower than one for a normal person. When the process happens, it results in color changes as the fingers, toes or other extremities lose their blood flow and oxygen, turning white, then blue. Once they are warm or calm again, the blood rushes back in and the color goes red. This is the patriotic color flow that is used to help identify Raynaud’s in patients.
- We’re entering “Raynaud’s Season” – That’s why we promote Raynaud’s Awareness Month in October in order to help spread awareness of the condition in time for people to prepare for protection against their triggers in the colder months. Temperature thresholds for attacks do differ from person to person: Some patients might experience symptoms in the early fall, while others might not have issues until the colder winter months. This article ran in November – perhaps our press efforts in October helped prime Dr. Stout to publish this article!
- Raynaud’s is not just an issue in winter months – Since stress is also a trigger, any time of the year could result in symptoms. We love that in this section, Dr. Stout reveals she, too, is a Frostie, and first experienced symptoms “in the freezing library studying for medical school exams.” The combination of the cold and stress were her main triggers. And it doesn’t have to be cold outside to cause issues for sufferers – you can be walking in the freezer aisle of the grocery store on a summer day and experience symptoms. She also mentions how working with vibrating tools and equipment can cause Raynaud’s. The name for this issue is Vibration White Finger, and it is caused by repetitive pressure to the fingertips. Certain occupations, such as construction workers, dentists, stenographers, pianists, or hobbyists such as woodworkers may experience Raynaud’s for this reason regardless of the season.
- There’s no gold standard for testing – True, there is no formal test to diagnose Raynaud’s. She suggests if you experience any of the color changes (it need not be the textbook white/blue/red for everyone), plus symptoms such as numbness and pain, see your doctor. As noted above, she suggests your primary care physician or a dermatologist. We’d suggest a rheumatologist, but in any case, explore symptoms with a medical professional. As there is no formal test, diagnosis takes place through either listening to a description of symptoms, witnessing an attack, or viewing photos of the color changes that you share with your doctor. There are, however, tests to determine if a patient’s Raynaud’s is secondary to another more serious primary disorder, so it’s important to go through this process. Even if results are negative, it establishes benchmark readings for tracking trends.
- Importance of keeping the core warm – For most people with Raynaud’s, avoiding their triggers involves lifestyle issues, particularly dressing in layers, having gloves at hand and finding strategies to avoid touching cold items directly, such as cold drinks (e.g., use a koozie, mug with a handle, or glass with a stem). And be sure to keep the core warm, as the stimulus for attacks is that blood is being redirected to protect vital organs in the core when the body believes it is “under attack” from cold or stress.
We’re very grateful to Dr. Stout for bringing Raynaud’s to the ABC News team’s attention during this prime season for experiencing symptoms, and are so glad to see ABC News promoting Raynaud’s Awareness.
Here’s a link to the full article: “Color changes in fingers and toes may be 1st sign of Raynaud’s syndrome.” Please do your part to help us promote Raynaud’s awareness this season and share the article with friends and family who could benefit from a better understanding of what it means to be living with Raynaud’s.