Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Runner with Raynaud's

I've mentioned here before that I have a condition called Raynaud's. People with Raynaud's experience an exaggerated spasm of the blood vessels as a response to cold or stress. It's more than just having cold hands or cold feet (though I normally have both) although the fingers, toes, and nose are most commonly effected. When your body is exposed to cold temperatures, your extremities lose heat. Your body slows down blood supply to your fingers and toes to preserve your body's core temperature. Your body specifically reduces blood flow by narrowing the small blood vessels under the skin of your extremities. In people with Raynaud's, this normal response is exaggerated. Affected areas of skin usually turn white at first. Then, the affected areas often turn blue, feel cold and numb, and sense of touch is dulled. As circulation improves, the affected areas may turn red, throb, tingle or swell. The order of the changes of color isn't the same for all people, and not everyone experiences all three colors.

Both hands affected, about 30 minutes after I finished running and stopped at the store on my way home.

Just one finger affected- this was at a restaurant

I only have trouble with my fingers. I don't usually have trouble when I'm running, but if I can't or don't change out of my sweaty clothes right after a run and take a hot shower, I will usually have an episode. Even in the summer, being in the air conditioning in sweaty clothes is enough to chill me and cause an episode. Sometimes I have episodes when I'm not running, like at a restaurant when I'm drinking something cold, or at the grocery store if I spend too much time in the refrigerated or freezer sections. My fingers will turn white first. They feel cold and numb and I lose the sense of touch. Hot water is the #1 thing that will reverse an episode for me. When an episode reverses, my fingers turn red and throb/tingle. It's not completely painful, but the best way I can describe it is an uncomfortable tingle.

I guess I had my first episode of Raynaud's as a teenager, but then it didn't bother me for a long time. Episodes became much more frequent when I started training for my first half marathon in winter 2010. There are treatments, but all medications come with risks, and I haven't had any long term effects from Raynaud's so I've shyed away from treatment in the past. I wear gloves outdoors most of the time when it's below 60 degrees. I carry a pair in my purse in case a restaurant or the grocery store is chilly. I use those chemical hand warming packs when it's near freezing. Keeping my core warm is the most important thing I've found, so I wear a jacket or vest even when it's as warm as 60.

I see a rheumatologist yearly to make sure I don't have any autoimmune disorders because Raynaud's can sometimes be affiliated with  them and I have a family history. So far, I'm negative for anything like Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis. A couple weeks ago, I went to my regular appointment with the doctor. He again brought up the option of treatment for Raynaud's. Because the episodes have become more frequent, last longer, and are harder to reverse than ever before, I was interested. He suggested a calcium channel blocker, a type of heart medication, that is used for high blood pressure and chest pain because it relaxes blood vessels. It can work for Raynaud's. I started taking Procardia about 9 days ago. I started at a very low dose, and the plan is to increase the dose if I still have episodes and as long as I tolerate the medication. I can take the Procardia seasonally- maybe just November through March. I had some low blood pressure and didn't feel quite right for the first few days but I've been feeling good the past week. I also haven't had any episodes! It's been pretty warm, so I'm not certain there's been a full challenge, yet. I should go up on my dosage tomorrow, but since I haven't had any episodes I'm going to wait. It would be great if I could stay at the lowest dose and it be effective.


Lesley @ racingitoff.com said...

I had never heard of this until about a year ago... Beth of Shut Up and Run has it. Very interesting. But glad it generally doesn't affect you when running. I think she gets it on her feet.

Tricia said...

I'm right with you on the Reynaulds -- it is no fun. I was on a trail run a few months ago and even with gloves, my hands hurt so bad, I ended up in tears.

A friend with it recently went on blood pressure medicine and it took away and she's not had a problem so I look forward to hearing how that works for you. I wonder if it is something you can take periodically when you know you are at a higher risk?

Luciana Smith said...

I also have Raynaud's and was diagnosed a year ago, after running my marathon. I have been frustrated with how it affects my running and training for Boston because lack of blood flow impacts muscle regeneration and I often feel sore, tired, etc. more often than I used to. Did you notice any other differences when you started the medication?