For most of us, reaching in to get a frozen pizza out of the cooler at the grocery store in the middle of summer doesn't usually mean mind numbing pain in your hands. It does if you have Raynaud's Disease. We met a Sioux Falls woman who has learned to deal with the condition for the last 10 years.
As a registered nurse at the Avera Heart Hospital, Leah White always pays special attention to details when documenting a patients meds.As a patient of Raynaud's Disease, the 26 year old has also learned to pay special attention to her hands.
White says, "My fingers will start turning white when they are exposed to extreme temperatures or cold objects. It also happens when I'm nervous, stressed or have high anxiety."
In Raynaud's Disease, the arteries that supply blood to your skin narrow, limiting blood circulation to affected areas.
White says, "So if blood isn't going to the tips of my fingers that means oxygen isn't being delivered and my fingers will turn a blueish/purplish color. When that happens I get a numbish, tingling sensation and it's very painful. It's brought tears to my eyes and I can't do anything in that situation other than try to warm them up."
White keeps a pair of gloves by her freezer and uses them every time she gets something out. If she doesn't and her hands get to the purple colored stage, she says it will feel like frost bite to her and takes longer to recover.
Dr. Thom Rooke from the Mayo Clinic is an expert on the subject. He was one of the guest speakers at North Central Heart's 14th annual Vascular Symposium. He says, "Everybody is supposed to have blood vessels that constrict so you can go outside in the cold and not lose all your heat. That is a normal mechanism. People with Raynaud's, for reasons that are not clear, have too much vasoconstriction or inappropriate vasoconstriction in response to stimuli that shouldn't cause it. If you run around outside in the middle of winter your skin is supposed to constrict not if you reach in to pull out a coke from the refrigerator."
White says, "It's one of those conditions that you live with and learn to control it or it controls you. I've learned to avoid what triggers it in the first place."
Although cold hands can be a nuisance, for Leah White and others with this condition it can also be a real pain. White is just glad it's not life threatening so she can focus on her patients lives and helping them get better.