A young boy has just finished PE class. Now, sitting in his classroom with the rest of his schoolmates, he notices that one finger on his hand has turned completely white, almost fluorescent. Amazed, he shows his other schoolmates. They are also amazed by the color. It is surprising how creepy a bloodless finger can look. His finger is numb, for now. He has no idea what awaits him in a few minutes when the blood returns. Raynaud’s disease is a very rare disorder that affects your blood vessels. While it can affect other parts of the body, you will likely see it in your fingers and toes. The symptoms are not always present, but are often seen in connection with increased stress or exposure to cold temperatures.As in the case of the young boy mentioned at the outset, when blood is not able to get to the surface of your skin, the affected area becomes white or blue. As the blood starts to return, the skin regains its red color. And this is when the pain begins.
Dealing with the Pain of Raynaud’s Disease
As his classmates looked on, the young boy went about the task of doing his homework. Because his finger was numb, it was difficult for him to hold onto a pencil. As the blood returned to his fingers, he felt as if he was being stabbed with toothpicks. It was the worst case of pins and needles he had experienced. The pain was intensified by the burning sensation.
Raynaud’s disease may develop on its own. In these instances, the reason for the disease is not understood. There is secondary Raynaud’s disease that is caused by medications, injuries, or as the body’s way of reacting to other diseases.
Raynaud’s disease flare ups can be triggered by extreme emotional stress or in response to exposure to cold temperatures. During a flare up, the affected arteries become very narrow, preventing blood from flowing to the affected body parts. As a result, these areas may respond by:
- Turning pale, white, or blue
- Produce pain, feel cold, or grow numb
- Burn, throb, tingle, or turn red as blood returns to the affected area
These painful attacks can last for just a few seconds, or they may last for multiple hours. You may experience attacks every single day or may just have a couple of attacks every month.
You may first see the attack on one finger and then watch as it affects another finger or toe. Sometimes just one or two digits are affected, and other times your entire hand or foot may be affected.
At its most severe, Raynaud’s disease can lead to painful sores, gangrene, and the eventual need to amputate the affected area.
As the young boy mentioned at the outset got older, his experience with Raynaud’s disease became more intense. The disease would attack with greater severity. Soon, he had come to dread being out in the cold. Skiing, playing in the snow, and other routine things that young boys his age enjoy doing in the cold weather are not an option for him because he knew they would bring about his Raynaud’s disease. Most frustrating was how his friends and family did not believe that his extremities felt as cold as he said they did. They thought he was exaggerating, and that made him feel like an outsider.
Who Is at the Greatest Risk for Raynaud’s Disease?
While anyone can develop Raynaud’s Disease, you have a better chance of developing the primary form, or the form not caused by injury, of Raynaud’s Disease if the following is true:
- Sex. Although the disease can affects men and women, it is more commonly seen in women.
- Age. Anyone can develop the disease regardless of their age. However, in the majority of cases primary Raynaud’s disease affects individuals between 15 and 30 years of age.
- Climate. This disorder is seen more frequently in individuals who live in cold climates.
- Genetics. If you have family members who have Raynaud’s Disease, your chances of developing increase drastically. Thirty percent of Raynaud’s Disease sufferers have at least a first relative, which is a sibling, a parent, or a child, who also has the disorder.
How We Can Help
Living with Raynaud’s Disease can drastically change your outlook on life. Things that you once enjoyed, such as being out in cold weather with friends and family, now provoke anxiety. The randomness of the disease and the occurrence of symptoms can make it difficult for you to feel like you have control over your life. When the pain hits, it can be overwhelming. It can stop you in your tracks.
Over the past few years, we have had the unique experience of interacting with individuals who have Raynaud’s disease. It has been humbling to hear their experiences and see how they have tried to deal with the pain on their own before seeking our help.
Something that we realize is that each individual who suffers the pain of Raynaud’s Disease is different. That’s why when you come in, the very first thing we are going to do is listen. We want to know how you feel. How has the pain affected your life? What do you want your quality of life to be like after treatment?
Armed with this information, we will be in the best position to help you develop a pain management and treatment program that will provide both short-term and long-term benefits.
We understand that when it comes to pain management, there are ups and downs. Our goal is to loyally stick by your side until you are once again living a quality life. We will never abandon you. We will never minimize or deny your pain. Our goal is to help you.