at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Raynaud's Phenomenon: The Mystery of the White Finger

Raynaud's Phenomenon - white fingers on hand
Hockey games can definitely induce Raynaud's...
For about as long as I can remember, my fingers have turned white when exposed to cold.  My toes, too, actually.  Sometimes the entire finger or toe; sometimes just part of it.  They usually get at least a little numb, too.  Sometimes it lasts for just a few minutes, sometimes it takes much longer for it to go away.  The funny thing is, I didn't realize that this wasn't normal until I was eighteen years old.  I just thought that's what happened when you got cold.  Somehow, these colorless appendages had escaped the notice of my parents for a good number of years.  Then, one day while my family was out to eat, my mom noticed that my fingers had turned white.  I was drinking ice water, and the glass was obviously cold, so I thought nothing of it.  My mom, on the other hand, was freaking out.  I told her, "They do that when they get cold.  They've always done that."  She wanted me to go to the ER.  We compromised and I agreed to see the doctor about my "symptoms".  

White pinky finger - raynaud's disease
White pinky!!
When I went to the doctor's office and explained how my fingers and toes turn white with cold, the doctor knew immediately what it was: Raynaud's Phenomenon or Raynaud's Disease.  (That's apparently pronounced ray-NOHZ -- however, my doctor pronounced it as it appears and I still have a tendency to do the same!) My doctor explained that for people who have Raynaud's, the blood vessels in the fingers and toes spasm and constrict when cold so that the blood cannot flow to the appendages.  Okay.  That explains why my fingers are white -- there's no blood getting to them!  When I asked the doctor what I should do about it, her advice was simple: avoid the cold.  Wear gloves when outside, be careful in the winter, etc.  Great.  Now I had a name for it.  Mystery solved, and no imminent threat to my well-being.

I started paying a little bit more attention to my Raynaud's since being diagnosed, but it took me until just a couple of years ago to make another connection.  Raynaud's is oftentimes a secondary condition and is frequently linked with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Hmm.  As I stated, I've had symptoms of Raynaud's for as long as I can remember.  I didn't start having RA symptoms until I was 19.  But it makes me wonder: was RA lying dormant for some years, and was Raynaud's actually my first symptom or indicator of rheumatoid disease?  I'm not really sure how to differentiate primary from secondary Raynaud's, but it is thought-provoking.

The other interesting thing is that I believe my Raynaud's symptoms to be getting worse.  The symptoms occur more frequently and with a greater severity than they have in the past.  Sometimes it actually hurts when my fingers regain their feeling and the blood flow returns.  I've also been noticing other symptoms that I can only assume are linked with Raynaud's.  Sometimes instead of a whole finger or section of a finger turning white, my finger and even whole hand will turn blotchy -- and become super itchy!  This happened to me the other day while grocery shopping.  By the way, I can almost never complete a trip to the grocery store without bringing on a Raynaud's attack.  Between the cool produce, the refrigerated dairy section, and the oft cool store's practically hopeless.  

Raynaud's phenomenon - white and purple fingers
Two fingers with white tips -- you
can see a bit of purple on the tip
of the index finger. My fingers
tend to turn bright red as
the color returns.
I also learned that Raynaud's can not only turn your fingers white, but can also turn them blue or purple.  I had never experienced this before, but I think my Raynaud's fell prey to the power of suggestion: not long after I learned this, my fingers started occasionally taking on a purple hue.  It's really quite creepy.  More so than the white, in my opinion, anyways.  Raynaud's is still more of a nuisance than anything else, but I'm curious to see if these symptoms progress alongside my RA symptoms. 

For now, I've just been coming up with ways to help keep warm.  I usually have socks on, and my feet are usually okay unless I'm out in cold(ish) weather.  My fingers, exposed to the air, often get cold indoors.  I've invested in a few things to help:

heated mouse
1. A heated mouse.  Yes, they make heated mice.  I found two different companies that make them, but ended up getting the WarmMe mouse for my desk at work.  It uses infrared heat and actually does help keep my hand warm -- which is great, because for whatever reason my mousing hand is always FREEZING at work.  My co-worker told me that it must be wind burn ;)  While the WarmMe mouse works great as a hand warmer, it rather sucks as a mouse.  So, for now, I have two mice on my desk -- one for most of my actual mousing tasks and one to rest my hand on when it's cold!

fingerless gloves

2. Gloves!  Even fingerless gloves will help keep my hands warm.  A friend of mine made me a pair tailored to just my size, and they are great for helping to stay warm when you still need to be able to use your fingers.  Like for typing.

Zippo hand warmer
3. Hand warmers.  I have always liked hand warmers and toe warmers and always insisted on using them while skiing.  I always wondered why other people didn't need toe warmers to keep their toes from feeling like they're going to fall off while on the slopes -- but I think I have my answer now.  Tom found me a unique Christmas gift last year.  It's a reusable hand warmer that you actually ignite.  We had such a mild winter this past year, I didn't really use it.  We'll have to break it out more this year.

Share this:


Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!