Adding Raynaud's to the list: a real lupus phenomenon
I recently added another notch to the lupus bedpost. After almost 11 years with lupus, I’ve developed a new symptom. My fingers now turn white and go numb in the cold. That’s right – I have myself a bonafide case of Raynaud’s phenomenon.
And I have to say – it can be painful! It’s a pretty common accompaniment to lupus – and up until October, I’ve always answered in the negative to my doctor’s question, “Do your fingers turn colors in the cold?” But that is the case, no longer. My fingers now turn ever-so white when I’m cold, going numb within seconds, with the burning and tingling following once the blood returns to my fingers 10 or 15 minutes later. Gloves help – but I find that exercising my hands and fingers helps the most.
So what is Raynaud’s? It’s an issue with circulation – and many times, a baby aspirin can alleviate the issue. But, just like many lupus patients, I’m already on a baby aspirin for clotting, so those 81mg are already working overtime elsewhere. Here’s the way my doctor explained it:
In the cold, our bodies constrict blood vessels in our extremities to keep our core (internal organs and the trunk area) warm. Usually, this constriction isn’t noticeable, and once the body warms up, the blood vessels open up again, and normal blood flow resumes - a process that should be seamless. However, in people with Raynaud’s, the blood vessels over-constrict, and blood flow is temporarily cut off from those extremities, causing fingers to go white. And if the blood vessels are over-constricted for an extended period of time, the body pulls the oxygen from the blood vessels in those extremities, causing fingers to turn blue. Once the body finally warms back up, the vessel re-open, and the blood madly rushes back to those poor, fledgling fingers – causing them to burn, tingle, and turn bright red. Nice, huh?
So – I’ve officially been inducted into the Raynaud’s gang. Interesting bit is that my sister-in-law, who has no signs of lupus whatsoever, has had Raynaud’s for quite some time. I’m in good company, it seems!
(And my doctor did mention that I could try mediction to help alleviate the issue...but I'm going to wait and see how annoying and painful this becomes first. If it's manageable without medicine, I think I'm just going to keep doing my finger exercises!)