Using thermal imaging, University of Utah researchers found women’s hands are colder than men’s. Specifically, their findings quantified that “women’s hands typically run 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit colder than men’s.”
The research is published in a December 2017 article in Medical Press Magazine. While Raynaud’s is mentioned, the findings are true for the general population, not just Raynaud’s sufferers. But it may help us understand some of the reasons why women are more likely to suffer from Raynaud’s than men.
The researchers identify differences in body size, composition and hormones as factors:
- Women have more body fat and less muscle than men. Body fat works to help keep the core warm for protecting vital organs, but also restricts blood flow to the extremities. That’s what’s happening during a Raynaud’s attack: The blood vessels in the extremities shut down in order to send blood to the core for protecting vital organs. It’s not clear why the extra body fat doesn’t help compensate for the fat restricting the blood flow, but it doesn’t. For those with Raynaud’s, our temperature threshold for this occurrence is much lower than for the average female, so it’s more exaggerated and more frequent for us Frosties.
- Women lose heat faster through their skin because they’re generally smaller than men. The article says this explains why women tend to be so miserably cold in offices while male counterparts are sweating in their shirtsleeves (a familiar scene?).
- Hormones are mentioned as a factor, but not explained. The hormonal link to Raynaud’s has also never been fully explored, but we hear about situations during or after pregnancy that point to some association. Women have reported no longer suffering from Raynaud’s either during pregnancy or after childbirth. We’ve also heard just the opposite – women who never suffered before getting pregnant became aware of Raynaud’s attacks during their pregnancy and continued with them after childbirth. There’s no definitive pattern. Because the true cause of Raynaud’s is still a mystery, it’s difficult to medically explain the situations just described, but you have to believe there’s some form of hormonal link involved. Wish the author had further elaborated on the subject – if not specific to Raynaud’s, at least for women in general compared to men.
The remainder of the article references Raynaud’s: The triggers (cold and stress), the symptoms (color changes and pain) and the two forms (primary and secondary).
While we’re really glad to see Raynaud’s covered, we take issue with two statements: First, that women are five times more likely than men to have Raynaud’s. All of the stats we’ve seen to date say the scale is tipped more to nine times more women than men in the Raynaud’s population.
Second, they state that “the primary type is linked to family history.” We’re not aware of this being a fact. The Mayo Clinic states “about one-third of people with primary Raynaud’s (the most common type) have an immediate relative with the disorder,” and this may be true. But researchers haven’t determined a specific genetic link for Raynaud’s, and as a true genetic factor has not been clinically proven, it is uncertain as to whether or not family connections are based on increased awareness of the condition among relatives (since only about 90% of sufferers are aware) or true heredity.
In any case, the odds are against us when it comes to comfy warmth: Women are destined to be colder than men, and those of us with Raynaud’s even colder. We hope the strategies and product information on our website help fellow Frosties get through the cold times!