Do your fingers ever feel numb and turn white when exposed to mildly cold air or are outside in the cold for only a few short seconds? Many individuals will experience numbness in their fingers after prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures, but if your fingers get cold, numb, and change colors very quickly, you may suffer from what is called Raynaud’s disease.
Primary Raynaud’s disease is a temporary narrowing of blood vessels in the fingers and other extremities most often triggered by cold temperatures. Finger tips become numb and painful and can turn from white, to blue, and then to red. It doesn’t take extreme temperatures for the Raynaud’s phenomenon to occur. The numbness and discoloration of your fingers can even occur in air conditioned environments. Some people find that even a quick trip to the refrigerated aisle at the grocery store can trigger an attack.
The best treatment is of course, to avoid the cause of the attacks. While it isn’t always feasible to avoid cold temperatures, protect yourself by dressing warmly. Wear mittens in the winter months instead of gloves. Mittens are proven to keep your fingers warmer than gloves as not only do they allow less cold air to circulate around the fingers but the air space within the glove acts as natural insulation. Also, when your fingers are close to each other, as they are in a mitten, they tend to keep each other warm. Sheepskin mittens are wonderful at keeping your fingers toasty warm. Sheepskin acts as a second layer of skin keeping you comfortably warm but not sweaty or clammy.
In addition to a good pair of mittens, consider regularly using hand warmers in your mittens or gloves. These are great for keeping your hands warm and they last all day. If it you’d rather not use mittens or gloves while indoors, keep a hand warmer or two in your pockets for a quick warm up.
Not only protect your fingers and hands from the cold temperatures but dress warmly all over. If your core body temperature is cold, blood tends to leave your extremities to be used to warm up the rest of you. While this isn’t the cause of Raynaud’s, blood leaving your fingers will certainly exacerbate your Raynaud’s symptoms.
If a Raynaud’s attack is underway you will want to remove yourself from the cold as soon as possible. Run your fingers under warm (not hot) water until normal color has returned and the numbness starts to fade. Another great trick is to fill an old, but clean sock with uncooked rice. Tie the end of the sock in a knot and place the sock in the microwave for 30 seconds (or until it is a “comfortable hot”). Wrap the sock around your fingers for relief.
While there is no cure for Raynaud’s, you can significantly limit your number of attacks by dressing warmly, both indoors and outside. Start with a pair of sheepskin mittens. Learn more about the benefits of sheepskin on our site, the mens sheepskin guide.
Elizabeth Dennis writes for a variety of health topics including vascular diseases and conditions. She also has Primary Raynaud’s disease and finds its absolute best treatment is prevention. Stay warm.