My RA Hands: Shades of Pink, Purple, Red, White, and Blue
About three years ago, I was diagnosed with Raynaud’s syndrome as secondary to rheumatoid arthritis. My hands can get really cold and alternate between turning whitish to purplish. My feet may not get noticeably cold, but they do turn a really interesting shade of blue/purple anytime I have to take off my socks in a doctor’s office for an exam.
Symptoms of Raynaud's syndrome
When my hands get cold, they get really cold and move really slowly which makes it difficult to type, play piano, or handle small objects. I become stiff fumble fingers. When the coldness hits, I instinctively want to hold my hands under my armpits with the hopes of warming them up, hold them under hot water, or snuggle them up in a heating pad.
I only noticed this happening a few years into my RA journey. When I reported the situation to my rheumatologist (who had already noticed the purple feet), she first suggested wrist/hand warmers or gloves. I had already been trying to use these things at home to keep warm, but they helped only a little.
Prescribed a low-dose of amlodipine
So my rheumatologist prescribed medication to help with the Raynaud’s. This medication, a calcium channel blocker, relaxes blood vessels which increases the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart.1 This class of prescription medication is often used for hypertension (aka high blood pressure). My doctor prescribed a low-dose of amlodipine.
During the winter months, amlodipine really does help to keep my hands and feet from turning frosty blue. I actually use the medication year-round.
Noticing different colors in my hands
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of bike riding. One thing I’ve noticed after a ride is that when I get into the shower, the palms of my hands will be different colors. Each hand different than the other and one hand sporting a variety of colors itself.
Why was this happening?
I suspect that the tiny blood vessels in the hands constrict while I’m cycling to provide better oxygenation to my organs and big muscles. Then when I’ve stopped riding and my adrenaline levels go back to normal, the blood vessels relax allowing blood to gush out to the extremities and turns them all sorts of colorful reds, pinks, and purples.
Even now as I look at my hands — because of course if I’m writing about it, I gotta take a look at my hands to see what’s going on at the moment — my palms have a fairly consistent color, but the last little bit of each finger is slightly redder than the rest. And, my right palm is a little bit paler overall than my left palm. That’s pretty normal for me. After a bike ride, the difference is much more astounding.
Raynaud's-related questions to ask at the next visit
Now I’m curious. I wonder if there is any significance to one hand being a different color than the other after a bike ride. I honestly don’t have the answer and should file that question away for the next time I talk with my rheumatologist during our virtual visit in September.
What about you? Do you experience Raynaud’s syndrome or other changes in skin color in your hands or feet?
Read my other articles on RheumatoidArthritis.net.
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