Many of us at one time or another complain of cold hands and feet and wonder whether this is normal or whether this could mean that something is wrong with our circulation. Fortunately, for most of us the inconvenience of cold hands and feet is only a passing concern. For others, there may be an underlying problem.
Raynaud’s Phenomenon is a condition that involves the occasional presence of cold extremities that may also be temporarily painful. It can be worse in cold weather but comes and goes on its own. No treatment is necessary and it may never progress to anything more serious.
Raynaud’s Disease, on the other hand, is more important and may be associated with other illnesses. With this illness fingers and toes turn white when exposed to the cold. The accompanying pain can be excruciating. Skin may turn blue or red as the tissues are exposed to warmth and try to return to normal. This illness results from changes in circulation.
While it is a normal reflex for the blood vessels in your hands and feet to constrict when exposed to cold, with this disease they constrict abnormally to the point that circulation in the extremities can be compromised. Even the cheeks, ears and nose can be affected. This illness is more common than previously thought, affecting one in 20 Americans. Women are four to five times more likely than men to be diagnosed with Raynaud’s Disease. Typically the first episode occurs before the age of 40.
If you are suspicious that you may be suffering from this problem, check with your doctor. This is an illness that can be dealt with by planning ahead for temperature changes and bundling up. In extreme cases, Raynaud’s may signal an association with another problem like scleroderma or thyroid abnormalities. In these cases your doctor can run some tests and make sure that you are correctly diagnosed, since treatment will differ based upon the underlying problem.