When it is cold and frosty, you may notice that your hands are turning slightly numb. However, for some people it is a lot more serious. The finger tips turn white and become numb. Within a few minutes, the whiteness spreads over the fingers and the tips then turn blue and become numb. After a while, when the warmth returns to the fingers, they start tingling and burning as the blood rushes into them and they turn red as the feeling gradually returns.

Why is this?

These are the symptoms of a condition called Raynaud’s syndrome, which affects about 20% of adults worldwide.  The numbness of extremities, that is, fingertips, toes, ears, nose or lips can be caused by the reduced flow of blood. Stress or the cold causes the blood vessels to temporarily contract, which blocks blood flow. These blood vessels are overly sensitive, which can cause the numbness. 80 percent of affected patients are women. Frequent Raynaud’s attacks can cause tissue damage. It may take up to 20 minutes for blood flow to resume to the area.

Raynaud’s can get triggered at around 20 years of age. It can be –

  • Primary – when the condition develops on its own and has no relation to any other health condition.
  • Secondary – when its development is associated to other conditions, mostly autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or even cancer.

How to diagnose Raynaud’s?

While the symptoms of Raynaud’s are fairly easy to diagnose, it is important to perform tests to determine the cause and any associated conditions there may be. Doctors may measure artery pressure, or conduct a Doppler ultrasound to assess blood flow. Blood tests are performed to test the full blood count or to detect antinuclear antibodies that attack self-tissues.

Raynaud’s can be subdued by controlling the triggers. Wearing woollen gloves and maintaining body heat in cold climates can help avoid numbing. Governing stress and practising relaxation techniques can also help. For Secondary Reynaud’s, treating the related disorders can also regulate Renaud’s.

While Renaud’s is not life threatening, it can be very trying to work with frozen hands, and the return of blood circulation is painful and uncomfortable. Keeping it at bay is important to prevent complications.

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