When Chilly Isn’t Just Cold

I have been meaning to write a post about Raynaud’s Phenomenon and Chillblains for some time. So why not today while I’m watching snow fall peacefully and thinking, that won’t be good for my toes.

First off, for those of you that don’t know, Raynaud’s is a circulation condition in which cold temperatures or strong emotions cause blood vessel spasms that block blood flow to the fingers, toes, ears, and nose. Meanwhile, Chillblains is a tissue condition that occurs with cold exposure, causing redness, blisters, pain, inflammation and itching.

For me, what this actually means is that I have struggled with cold hands and feet from poor circulation my whole life. When I hit puberty, this translated into my hands and feet occasionally (usually at really inopportune times, because Raynaud’s can be associated with emotion) turning really spectacular shades of blue, red and purple. In my late 20’s, the most common symptom is losing all blood flow to my hands and feet when they’re extremely cold or in high altitude. This causes them to go white and numb.

Then, this year rolls around and my toes are now prone to the really painful, unattractive blisters associated with Chillblains after cold exposure. Fun!

I’m only writing about this because it took me forever to diagnose these two problems. When I first got Chillblains, I thought I’d had a run-in with a troop of vicious spiders that had bit up my toes.

Now, unfortunately, the only treatment I’ve been prescribed is avoiding cold (Ha! Who are we kidding? I ski and snowboard… and I’m training for a marathon in the winter). Other tips include warming your extremities slowly when you come in from the cold (much like frostbite). I’ve also found putting witch hazel on my toes twice a day helps a little.

Though my doc says these are two separate issues from Rheumatoid Arthritis, I’m not convinced it’s unrelated. I am curious how many of you autoimmuners out there also suffer from circulation issues? If so, any tips?

AND, in case you didn’t see my last post, please consider donating to help me reach my goal of raising $500 for autoimmune disease research and running my first marathon! I’m only $200 away!
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  1. #1 by Sasha on March 11, 2013 - 9:47 pm

    I haven’t been diagnosed with Raynaud’s specifically. However, I do have Secondary Sjogren’s. Funny enough, Raynaud’s Phenomenon is one of the many symptoms that also include extreme dryness, lung issues, digestive issues and more. That beings said…I definitely have circulation issues. I’m surprised they aren’t related as Secondary Sjogren’s is called Secondary because a person has a primary autoimmune disorder. Once again, I’m with you. One may not cause the other, but seems like they have to be related in some way.

    • #2 by My RAD Life on January 21, 2014 - 6:13 pm

      Sorry for the mega-delayed reply. It’s interesting to me that Raynaud’s is considered a symptom of Sjogren’s. Autoimmune diseases and their intricately linked variations are so confusing! I think the only reason I wasn’t diagnosed with Secondary Sjogren’s is that I don’t suffer from dry eyes (though I did for many years, hmm…). Is there anything that works for you in trying to prevent Raynaud’s symptoms?

  2. #3 by jtamburini on January 20, 2016 - 4:12 pm

    Your blog is providing me with a wealth of information and immense comfort. I have periodically had symptoms of RA for 10 years (I am 49 years old) but have never been tested. I have an appointment with my Primary Care Provider to get that conversation and the tests started. In recent years, I have had chilblains, lots of problems with eyelid inflammation, stiff neck, pain in my feet and hands (and now nodules on my index fingers). AND FATIGUE (and guilt). I am thrilled to discover “My RAD Life”. I, too, enjoy blogging as a hobby – check me out at http://www.cheekytreet.com!
    To your health and happiness in 2016!
    Joan Tamburini

    • #4 by My RAD Life on February 23, 2016 - 5:18 pm

      Thanks Joan! So sorry for the late reply!! Please give us an update on your appointment! How did it go? Best of luck and hope you are doing well.

      • #5 by My RAD Life on February 23, 2016 - 5:20 pm

        P.S. I tried that link and it seemed broken. Share it again as I’d love to see your blog!

  3. #6 by Rowan on July 29, 2018 - 12:59 pm

    Hi, I realise you wrote this ages ago, but I was searching RA and chilblains and it was one of the few useful results. I’m in the process of tests for RA, though it seems I might be lucky and it might only be OA… which is a strange best case scenario, but I recognise it for what it is. Anyway, I also stumbled upon a podiatrist’s page on chilblains that says they now think that 20%-40% of chilblains may be associated with underlying conditions, of which RA is one. Given that I’m in the middle of my first serious arthritis flare up and also have chilblains for the first time in my life, I thought that was interesting. I’ve included the link in case others are looking for possible connections.


    Thanks for a great and inspiring site. It’s really engaging and hopeful, which is something I really need at the moment.

    • #7 by My RAD Life on September 27, 2018 - 3:03 am

      Rowan, I’m sorry for the late reply. I’ve been neglecting my blog. I’m glad you found my story and was very intrigued to hear yours! Also, not surprised that RA is a correlation. I hope things are going well for you and that you don’t have RA. Big hugs!!!!

  1. ‘Tis the Season to Plan Races | My RAD Life

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