As the weather turns colder people may experience episodes of painful cold toes and/or fingers after being out doors. If the pain is more than you would expect from simply being under-dressed for the cold weather and you begin to experience pain that lasts for a few hours and see that some of your toes and fingers are turning whitish, bluish or very red you could be experiencing Raynaud’s.
Raynaud’s describes what happens when the blood vessles in the fingers and toes spasm after exposure to the cold. At its best, Raynaud’s is a painful condition. At its worst and most severe Raynaud’s could require hospitalization if the skin at the tips of the fingers or toes can not recover even after they are warmed again.
Raynaud’s is not frostbite, which is tissue death from severe cold exposure. Rather, Raynaud’s is an abnormal response by the blood vessels to cold exposure. It is more common in women than men and younger people than older. Raynaud’s occurs in otherwise healthy people. People with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma, however, may be particularly prone to this condition.
Preventing cold exposure is the first defense. Dress your body’s core area (the torso) warmly in layers and dress your feet and hands in layers as well. Wool socks over a a synthetic sock is a good combination. And boots insulated with Thinsulate can help insulate the feet even more. Charcoal foot and glove warmers ( examples include Grabbers and Heatmaxx) are also useful to keep the extremities warm.
In addition, avoid smoking and drinking caffeine and certainly avoid these activities prior to and while exposed to the cold. Staying active outdoors can also help minimize an attack of Raynaud’s. Treatment for this condition would inlcude warming the toes and fingers ideally by going indoors. In recurrent cases you may benefit from perscription medication to help dilate the small blood vessels in the fingers and toes.
To learn more about Raynaud’s visit the Mayoclinic page on Raynauds.