Do your hands go numb or turn blue sometimes? Especially now that the weather's turning colder? I received this message from a reader not long ago, which reminded me of yet another add-on ailment I haven't addressed in a while:
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a little more than 3 1/2 years ago. I have Raynaud's disease which leaves my fingers and toes cold most of the time. This makes it hard for me to test my blood sugar because there isn't much blood in my finger tips. As a result I don't test my blood nearly as often as I should - Pat W.
Oy, the fingers, the fingers! I got quite a load of comments when I posted this back in 2005:
(Devilish) Raynaud's Syndrome
Ever heard of Raynaud's Syndrome? Nobody seems to be able to confirm whether this odd circulation disorder is related to diabetes, but I have my suspicions.
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Also known as Raynaud's Phenomenon (or Raynaud's Disease), this is a condition involving "periodic episodes of reduced blood supply in the extremeties when exposed to cold or sudden temperature changes." Meaning your fingers and toes go white and numb and become pretty much useless for a period of time. Uncomfortable, and sometimes quite scary!
Did I mention that I grew up near Los Angeles, in what is arguably the mildest climate in the world? Nevertheless, a walk to the bus stop on a June morning usually meant white, dead fingers that wouldn't recover until we arrived at school, and I made to the girls' room and waited (and waited...) for the tap water to turn warm. I'd hold my hands under the warm water slowly, painfully flexing the fingers as my classmates oogled about what a freak I was. And now I've put a name to it! See, guys, I wasn't possessed by the hand-devil after all...
Anyway, I've learned that Raynaud's may affect 5 to 10 percent of the general population in the United States. Women are apparently more likely to get it than men. The NIAMS site notes: "Raynaud's phenomenon appears to be more common in people who live in colder climates. However, people with the disorder who live in milder climates may have more attacks during periods of colder weather." Right, like every time it time it rained in Southern California.
And I just discovered that I'm not the only one wondering if it is somehow associated with diabetes or increases my risk of complications. I only found one online mention of the fact that "Patients with diabetes often develop Raynaud's phenomenon" — and this took me a while to dig up. Plus, the treatment suggestions sound painfully familiar: don't smoke, control stress, and exercise regularly. If things get really bad, you can try a calcium-channel blocker or vasodilator drug (?).
Unfortunately for me, one of the few things that seems to stop Raynaud's in its tracks is Viagra. Who would'a thought? It figures...