Winter is terrible for many reasons, seasonal affective disorder, treacherous slicks of ice, and the infinite quest for moisturized skin among them. But for people with Raynaud’s disease (sometimes called Raynaud’s phenomenon or syndrome), winter can also make their hands and feet go numb, then ache, and even turn every color of the American flag in the process. It would be an impressive party trick if it weren’t so painful.
Raynaud’s symptoms are painfully distinct.
It’s not just that your fingers feel cold when you trudge through the snow (or frolic, depending on your opinion of winter). “It’s impressive, this change,” vascular surgeon Daiva Nevidomskyte, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at Duke University School of Medicine, tells SELF. “Within a couple of minutes, people’s fingers turn pale, then blue, and once they’re reheated, they turn red. It’s a pretty dramatic response.”
Beyond the visible changes, when someone is having a Raynaud’s attack, the lack of blood flow will lead to numbness and pain in the affected body part as it turns white and blue. When the blood flow returns, the body part starts to redden, and nerves reacting to the renewed circulation will cause tingling, throbbing, or burning, Mounir Haurani, M.D., vascular surgeon and assistant professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF.