Thursday, January 19, 2012

I'm Blue

Raynaud’s Phenomenon can be a pain.

Sorry. Maybe I should explain a little bit about what Raynaud’s Phenomenon is before going any further. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Raynaud’s Phenomenon is: “A condition in which cold temperatures or strong emotions cause blood vessel spasms that block blood flow to the fingers, toes, ears and nose.”
No blood flow = pain.

To be honest, until very recently, this condition was more of a discomfort to me than an actual pain. Long before I was told that I had Raynaund's, I knew that I was somehow "different" than almost everyone else around me.
When co-workers complained about the heat, I was sometimes still a little chilly. When they were comfortable, I was pulling on a jacket.

For years I knew that it was weird for me to always NEED socks and tennis shoes on when other girls were showing off pretty pedicured toes in cute sandals. I didn't really understand why - I just knew that when I wore sandals, I was uncomfortable.
Ask most folks what the worst part about living without power after a hurricane is and you'll probably hear a lot about how hot it gets without air conditioning. That didn't really bother me much at all...but not having hot water??? THAT was a serious hardship!

Living with Raynaud's means that something as simple as walking through produce, meat or dairy departments at the grocery store can be a challenge. Mixing spices into ground meat (because I'm cajun and there must be spice in burgers!!!) will bring tears to my eyes. Food gloves help a little bit but not as much as the super warm soapy water in my sink that I use to re-warm my hands during the process. And let's not even mention trying to move things around to find a particular item in a freezer :::shudder:::

Now that I understand a bit more about how my body reacts to cold, it's no longer a mystery why I hurt so much in colder temperatures. When I feel tension creeping in, I can might look up and realize that my ability to tolerate the ceiling fan has reached it's limit. Instead of feeling guilty about "hiding out" in my little office, I am thankful for the warmth here (thanks to the heat that pours from the computer into this little room.)

There is still more for me to learn. I haven't yet had any tests run to determine if I have what is considered Primary or Secondary Raynaud's. If it's Secondary...then it's possible that I may be dealing with another underlying disorder like Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Atherosclerosis, Scleroderma, or Sjögren's syndrome. None of those sound like much fun.

Why am I sharing this with you? It's Raynaud's Awareness Week. We have a ribbon and everything!
The three colors represent the color changes that can occur during an "attack." Typically the skin blanches when the blood flow is initially disrupted due to vessel constriction. I don't usually see that step. Well, I don't see it occur on MY body. I have seen it happen to my husband. Yes, he has Raynaud's as well, but in his case there is a known cause (trauma from an accident while he was serving our country) and his symptoms are confined to one hand. What I've never seen in him is the red. That's the part that I see in my own hands the most often. From just above my knuckles down to my finger tips, my hands flush - and sometimes swell.

The blue (ummm... that part of the ribbon looks purplish to me, but let's pretend that it's blue, okay) is new for me. This winter marks the first time that I've noticed it, but now I can practically predict when it will occur. When I get to the point where I feel cold through and through, I'll fill the tub with hot water and ease into it. The heat does something to help my veins relax enough that blood can begin flowing again. That's when it happens. I turn blue. First it was just parts of my feet. Now I see it happening in my hands as well.

Blue is not my favorite color.

Kermit the Frog once sang a song about how tough it is to be green. Well, Kermit, be thankful that you aren't blue...