Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Raynaud's Disease

Every year we have a small selection of climbers on our trips who have Raynaud's Disease. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute defines the disease as follows:

  • "Raynaud's disease and Raynaud's phenomenon are rare disorders that affect blood vessels. These disorders are marked by brief episodes of vasospasm (narrowing of the blood vessels). Vasospasm causes decreased blood flow to the fingers and toes, and rarely to the nose, ears, nipples, and lips. The fingers are the most commonly affected area, but the toes also are affected in 40 percent of people with Raynaud's."

In other words, one's hands and feet are more prone to getting cold. This is particularly problematic on cold weather and high altitude trips. People who have this disease are more likely to experience frostbite or other cold injuries.

As this type of disease has little effect on the normal person living and working in a city, there are a number of people out there who are undiagnosed. Most who spend time in the outdoors are aware that they might have "poor circulation" in the cold. And most who feel that they have "poor circulation" take measures in order to ensure that they do not suffer frostbite.

An April 2007 online issue of the the Wilderness Medicine Newsletter addressed Raynaud's. The newsletter prescribes both treatment and rehabilitation to the disorder. If you have circulation issues or a diagnosed case of Raynaud's and have completed this rehabilitiation let us know how it worked out. If it had a positive effect and you found that your hands and feet remained warmer in cold climates we would certainly like to pass that on. And if it didn't work, we'd like to pass that along as well.

--Jason D. Martin


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Steve RB said...

I had a bad trip to Mont Blanc last week - always suffered with 'white finger' in the cold - it was -20degC, without considering wind chill, and I had completely numb, useless, dead hands within an hour. Guide instantly said it was Reynauds, gave me a huge dose of aspirin and put me in his heavy mitts with some of those charcoal heat pads - i was fine for the next 8 hours and I'm convinced he saved my fingers. His advice was that it is fine to climb (and we did the usual ice climbing, alpinism, etc etc during the week) but ALWAYS have the best mitts on the market in your bag at all times along with heat pads for emergencies. Then there's no reason you can't cope, rope work, ice screws and using cameras becomes and issue, but then once your hands are warm, a thin liner pair under mitts works well for finer work without risking frostbite, remember to keep the mitt loops on tho, lose those and you're in trouble!

Anonymous said...

Probably like most, I have never been diagnosed with Raynauds; however, when I started climbing at higher altitudes I immediately noticed the "hypersensitivity" to cold and the over exaggerated pain upon rewarming. I don't even have to be climbing in a cold environment to get the "screaming barfies." I have been known to get the barfies while rock climbing in 60 degree weather!

Last year I said "goodbye" to ice climbing forever after never coming close to resolving the issue. It was so frustrating-- i tried everything I could think of to battle the barfies. There were times I would be totally bundled and warm (but not sweating) in relatively warm temps (low thirties). And I'd still get the barfies multiple times throughout the day!

After doing a lot of research this year I found the easiest way for me to battle this issue every day mostly had to do with diet and habit changes. I have drastically reduced the amount of caffein I have per day or week, I am staying much more hydrated throughout the day, and I added ginkio biloba and ginger as a dietary supplement. I feel like a combination of all of these but specifically staying well hydrated and reducing caffein intake has helped tremendously.

Since I made these changes I have been on two trips where the mercury dropped below freezing and I had NO PROBLEMS. Neither trip did I feel like I was even close to getting the screaming barfies--it was a relief to say the least.

I am going to try the rehabing which the article talked about and see if I feel like that makes a difference also.

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servalcat said...

I have Raynaud's and it comes and goes. I can be really cold and not have it and then slightly cold and get it. I was diagnosed with celiacs last year and after going gluten and coffee free for several months I got Raynauds bad (after drinking coffee AND getting glutened the same weekend...stupid Starbucks) and realized it had been months without an episode. I climbed Kili a few months ago and had zero problems (I wore heavy mitts ...but see below...and was on diamox). It returned when I got home (I started drinking coffee again) and I've had several episodes since (like right now, which is how I found this blog). For me (at least) it seems to be tied to diet (caffieine and/or gluten) and stress. Staying warm does nothing to prevent it on my feet: I have been in heavy weight socks indoors at work with the stat at 70 with white toes, but I've never had it hit my fingers when gloved. I suspect the diamox helped quite a bit and intend on using is for Ecuador next year. I have not tried the re-education treatment-it looks kind of silly.