Some 15-30 million Americans suffer from a medical condition often called “Zombie Hands.”
Their fingers may turn a ghoulish white, then blue and red, when cold or stressed. Color changes in the fingers are a common marker for Raynaud’s Phenomenon, which has mystified the medical community for over 150 years.
Named after the French physician Maurice Raynaud, Raynaud’s Phenomenon has mystified the medical community for over 150 years. There’s no formal test for it, no FDA-approved drugs to treat the painful attacks, and no cure. For some unknown reason, the vast majority of sufferers are women.
Raynaud’s has been virtually ignored not just by the medical community. That can be dangerous.
Only 10 percent of people with Raynaud’s seek treatment. They often dismiss the discomfort or pain by saying they have poor circulation or are allergic to the cold. But their symptoms could be a sign of an underlying serious condition such as scleroderma, lupus and other possibly life-threatening diseases.
Sometimes the onset of Raynaud’s occurs months or years before a primary disease presents itself. That’s why medical intervention and monitoring are important. Simple blood tests can reveal antibodies associated with those diseases.
During a Raynaud’s attack, the blood vessels go into spasms, which can cause pain, numbness, throbbing and tingling. Although fingers are usually the primary affected area, the toes, nose, ears, sexual organs and other extremities may be involved.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is thought to involve an overreaction by the sympathetic nervous system, similar to the “fight or flight” syndrome experienced when the body senses danger. If you’re frightened, you might turn ‘white as a sheet’ because the outer blood vessels constrict to send blood to the body’s core to protect the vital organs where it’s needed in an emergency. Thus, Zombie Hands!
Raynaud is a year round problem. Walking into an air-conditioned room can make your fingers or toes throb or sting. Holding a cold glass or putting your hand in the freezer can be very painful. And, of course, stress knows no seasons.
But as the apparel industry is catching on, the pharmaceutical companies are lagging, missing the market potential of reaching the five percent or more of the population with Raynaud’s.
But, first, if you have Zombie Hands, you need to seek medical help.