Avera Medical Minute: Changes in the weather affects those with Raynaud's Syndrome

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - As winter drags on many of us complain about how the cold feels on our skin. But, for people who suffer from Raynaud's Syndrome the changes in the weather becomes more difficult.

One nurse has the condition and works to keep the syndrome at bay.

"The best way I can describe it is that your fingers and your toes go numb and then when you try to warm them up, it's almost like when your leg or foot falls asleep," Molly Dziedzic, who suffers from Raynaud's Syndrome, said.

Molly was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease when she was seven. In 2013, she was diagnosed with Graves' Disease, that's when Raynaud's Syndrome started to appear in her hands and feet.

"They will turn like bright, bright white, and then it started off with just my ring fingers, and now it's like you can see the clear cut-off of where it stops turning white," she said. "And then they kind of turn purple."

The syndrome shows up when there's a temperature change - turning hands from white to blue to red then back to normal. Blood vessels frequently tighten and squeeze or dilate and expand to the environment around us. But, for people with Raynaud's that response is exaggerated.

"The vessels constrict and become tighter to the point that they don't have blood flow into the extremities like the fingers and toes," Dr. Kara Petersen, an Avera Rheumatologist, said.

Dr. Petersen says there are two categories of the syndrome - primary and secondary.

Primary tends to happen to teens or people in their twenties. Doctors don't have a good explanation for the condition for those who have the primary syndrome. Secondary occurs due to another condition or disease.

"Some times medications can trigger it," she said. "So, we often review the patients' medication list looking for things that might be contributing to this. In some cases, it's another disease process like Lupus or Scleroderma or Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disorder, which can be frequently associated with Raynaud's phenomenon."

Patients can have pain, numbness, tingling, or clumsiness with their fingers or toes because of the syndrome.

For Molly, she has found different ways to keep from triggering those symptoms, like bundling up before going outside or keeping her hands warm by sitting on them.

"I can leave work and have I can have two pairs of gloves on and get out to my car, and when I get home they're still bright white," she said. "And then, I typically just run them under warm water, not supposed to be hot water because a lot of people can't feel their fingers."

But, once her hands warm back up - things are back to normal.

"My hands are really dry especially because of it so being a nurse and constantly using hand sanitizer doesn't help it," she said. "But, once they warm up they aren't too affected."

Doctors at Avera say that if you are showing signs and symptoms of Raynaud's Syndrome to be sure to get your hands and feet checked out.

For more information, visit avera.org.