ME Monday: Raynaud’s Disease

I have Raynaud’s Disease. Sounds serious, huh? It’s not so serious for me, and somewhat easy to maintain as long as I pre-plan all my outdoor adventures.

Raynaud’s Disease (or Raynaud’s Phenomenon as it’s sometimes called) results from decreased blood supply to certain parts of the body, primarily fingers, ears, nose. You can see pictures and a longer description here on Wikipedia. You should know that the pictures on the right hand side of the Wikipedia article are not “worst case scenarios” but actually the way Raynaud’s sufferers will often look when they are exposed to cold temperatures. My fingers have looked just like all of those pictures at different points in the past few years when I wasn’t prepared for the weather.

Raynaud’s Disease typically affects my hands the worst. If it’s colder than 60˚F I need gloves, even if exercising when I know I’ll get warm. If it’s in the 30s, I need heavy duty mittens. Just yesterday, I spectated a XC meet with temps in the high 30s. I wasn’t even outside for an hour. I had on many layers, a heavy jacket, and mittens that protect against -10˚F. Still, my fingers looked like this:

raynaud's disease

Right pinkie and little bit of middle finger affected.

raynaud's disease

Tips of all fingers on left hand. Appears I need some hand lotion and a manicure as well

raynaud's disease

Underside of left hand

These pictures show what is pretty normal for me when I take full precautions. On days where I’m not prepared, I have major problems. I usually can’t move my swollen fingers enough to open a door, take off my shoes or even grip a cup to take a drink. The best way to warm my hands is to run them under cool water, then eventually get warmer or just get inside and let them thaw naturally. It is extremely painful (brings me to tears and there aren’t many things that get me like that!) and goes through different levels of pain like feelings of stabbing pain, pins and needles, and dull aching before it’s completely back to normal. Not fun, but something I deal with.

I found the best ways to avoid problems are:

  • Wear gloves/mittens almost year-round if you live in a typical 4-seasons state. I live in upstate NY and we get the true Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter seasons. I get a break in the summer, but most of spring and fall (and obviously all winter) you will see me in gloves.
  • Wear arm warmers or a thumbhole long sleeve top that cover part of the hand as extra insurance. I love the Oiselle armwarmers and the Rundelicious top. I like to tuck my fingers in the palm part then add light mittens for cool fall mornings.
arm warmer finger tuck

In case you needed a visual. Just add mittens and you are good-to-go!

hot hands

  • Always have gloves packed in your car, in case you get the urge for some outdoor time when on-the-go.

And there you go! Another little glimpse into my life outside of running that always seems to heavily tie back to my running!

Do you suffer for Raynaud’s or anything similar? How do you deal?

14 thoughts on “ME Monday: Raynaud’s Disease

  1. I have the same issue, it really is the worst! I make sure I wear gloves as soon as the temperature drops below 55! Road Runner Sports also makes a great running hoodie that has the thumbholes and a foldover for over your hands! Very warm material as well!

  2. YES! I absolutely have this too. I was “diagnosed” in college and at first it freaked me out, but it does help explain so much. The hands are now the worst part for me but for years (and still sometimes) it happened to my feet. Specifically the balls of my feet and little toes. Makes walking a little awkward. The hands make racing in cooler temps a little challenging as you mention above- hard to grip cups and open gels when you can’t feel finger tips. I’ve found that mittens work so much better than gloves. I still have all the symptoms in gloves regardless of temp, but mittens allow my body heat to help keep it under control.

    • I’ve found the same thing, Holly. Mittens are almost always best. And yes, fueling in longer distances is really hard. That’s why I couldn’t get my splits for a few miles in the Columbus half. My fingers were like sausages!

  3. My big toes look like that sometimes when I get really cold! Not that it really gets cold here. I couldn’t imagine living somewhere that it snowed. Do you run outside all winter?

    • Oh yes, I run outside all year. I love the change of pace (literally) that snow brings. It works the body differently and I feel like it refreshes me coming into the spring!

  4. Same for me – I have an extensive collection of fingerless gloves that I essentially wear at all times, though I usually have full gloves for running. My toes go numb as well, which can be a problem on longer runs; I’ve found a more minimal shoe helps for me, and that shoes with more support under the toes often make the ‘blue’ set in faster. But as you point out, the post-run shower or bath is always painful – the rest of me wants hot water, but my numb hands and feet complain bitterly.

    • Interesting Lisa! I haven’t ever connected the minimal shoe/less frozen toes, but now that you mention it, I definitely have less problems with my feet when I have on a more minimal shoe! Thanks for sharing that!

  5. How funny to see a post about this! All my friends think I’m a freak of nature when we come inside from being somewhere (even just the frozen food aisle) and my fingers are ghostly white. Or my toes.

    The hand warmers (like the Hot Hands in the picture above) are what have saved me on many, many runs. I find gloves/mittens don’t really keep my hands warm or, if they do, at some point my hands really do heat up and I’m left with big heavy mittens I’d rather not wear. So I just carry hand warmers in my hands while wearing thumbhole long sleeve shirts. Usually there comes a point in my run where my hands are so warm that I can just toss the hand warmers in a nearby garbage. Or I will run with just one and alternate passing it back and forth between my hands so they never get too hot or too cold. :)

    Love to hear that I’m not alone!!

    • Yes, Kristen! I forgot about the frozen food aisle! My husband is always amazed at the tiniest temp changes that can cause the finger white-outs. I do the same thing with passing the hand warmers back and forth and eventually tossing them. You are definitely not alone. In fact, I’m so glad I wrote this because I realized how many runners have this problem! Thank you for sharing yours!

  6. I just started suffering from extreme pain in my fingertips when running in even just 35 degrees. The pain is so horrible that I sit and cry until they defrost. I’ve layered gloves and mittens with no help. I appreciate what you posted! I may get hand warmers to put in my mittens and layer those. God help me when it gets colder!

  7. I suffer from Raynaud’s as an extension of hypothyroidism. I’m a runner and my toes and fingers often go numb whether it’s 60F or 20F! One thing to make sure you’re avoiding is CAFFEINE. Caffeine is a cardiovascular restrictor which narrows the blood vessels in your extremities which can exacerbate the symptoms of Raynauds. Some pre-workout drinks and proten/energy bars are laden with caffeine, which you might not suspect. So make sure you read the ingredients as you don’t have to consume pop or coffee to be susceptible to added caffeine.

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