I have Raynaud’s syndrome. It’s a condition that affects approximately four to 15 percent of the population, and tends to manifest in the patient’s fingers and toes. As a runner, this can make things difficult or uncomfortable, so let’s talk about the ways you can keep safe and well during episodes.
What Is Raynaud’s Syndrome?
Raynaud’s is a medical condition that causes certain blood vessels to react negatively to cold or stress. As a result, the body parts served by those blood vessels can turn white and go numb for short to extended periods of time. It’s afflicts females more than males and typically begins in adolescence. I have what is considered Primary Raynaud’s, which means that there were no underlying causes or associated conditions or diseases. While it can be painful and inconvenient, I require no treatment or medication for the condition. (Secondary Raynaud’s IS associated with other diseases and ailments, and must be diagnosed and treated by a doctor or medical professional).
What Does An Episode Feel Like?
When I have an episode of Raynaud’s, there is zero doubt about it. My hands (and sometimes my toes) get ice cold. The skin of my fingers turns stark white, and sometimes even pale purple. They tingle painfully, and I lose the ability to grip things effectively. Quite simply, it hurts. My episodes can end within minutes, or take a little longer, depending on how quickly I can warm up. It usually hits when I’m outside in the cold or in really frosty air conditioning. Sometimes, my attacks are triggered by stress, but that’s not the norm.
How Do I End An Attack?
My go-to for ending a Raynaud’s attack is hopping in the shower. While I prefer hot water, warm is recommended. Sadly, the remedy hurts as much as the ailment, as the blood starts flowing back to my fingers and toes. There’s a sharp swing from icy tingling, to burning feeling, and neither is particularly pleasant. I bundle up afterwards, and try to keep my hands and feet tucked up in gloves or socks to keep comfortable.
As A Runner, How Do I Protect Myself?
Running outside means that I am exposed to cold temperatures, which can lead to unwanted Raynaud’s events. The rest of my body gets warm very easily, so I often wear shorts and tank tops to run, even when it’s technically cold out. There are a few things I do to try to prevent this from happening.
- I always run in gloves. It’s easy to snag several cheap pair from the Target Dollar Spot or discount store to always have on hand
- Smartwool socks are a must. They are cool in the summer and cozy in the winter, which is perfect for me and my specific needs.
- If I have to be in a tank and shorts in the cold, I find that wearing a hat or ear warmer also helps me keep the heat in my body. It’s not foolproof but it does help hold off my Raynaud’s syndrome a little longer.
- Even if I don’t wear it, I try to bring a warmer shirt or jacket tied around my waist to put on during my cool down. That’s usually the time when my hands get hit, so I try not to get chilled as a means of prevention.
- Keep my hands dry while I am outside. Rain, humidity, and other moisture makes it a thousand times worse.
- As soon as I get home, I take myself right to the shower and a change of dry clothes. It’s really the only way to get the warmth and feeling back in my extremities and the faster I get back to normal, the better it is.
For more information on Raynaud’s Syndrome, please visit the Mayo Clinic informational page. If you are exhibiting symptoms of Primary or Secondary Raynaud’s please get checked out by your doctor.
Do you have Raynaud’s? How do you manage in colder weather?
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