Raynaud’s Disease: How it Affects Me
|Sean J Connolly Photography|
I’ve been a bit hesitant about writing this one. It was actually my other half who suggested I write a piece about this. Modelling lingerie and showing myself off semi clothed is something that’s not a huge deal to me, I enjoy it and it feels pretty normal. To talk about my body, now that’s a different matter all together, isn’t it? It becomes a whole lot more personal. But I’ve decided to bring the topic up out of personal relief and intrigue to find out whether anyone else is like me.
Raynaud’s Disease is a common condition and you’ve most likely heard about it. In a nutshell, it’s when your body goes into overdrive (and over-reacts) when it feels the slightest hint of cold and panics into the mode of prioritising the organs. This means shutting off blood supplies to ‘less important’ parts of the body that don’t depend on the body’s survival; the hands, feet and other smaller areas. I’ve lived with the condition as far back as nine, that I can remember. I used to dread winter at school and even hated being in the garden building snowmen for very long because of the pain I was guaranteed. When I was at school I tried to stay indoors and dodge the teachers who’d tell me to get away from the radiators and go outside. To this day I hate cold.
|My Left Hand|
|My Right Hand|
Of course, every single person who is unfortunate to have Raynaud’s doesn’t necessarily have the same conditions nor severity. For some, the odd finger will discolour, the next person, a whole set of fingers. I tend to have three to four fingers on each hand that are affected (never my thumb) and my toes and entire soles of my feet get it too. When Raynaud’s kicks in there’s a three step process to it, the main part is the numbing which leaves your affected areas pale as a sheet. My fingers are difficult to use when at this stage and the numbness makes it virtually impossible to function. My feet in turn become cumbersome and as if I’m walking with someone else’s feet. It’s uncomfortable and really hurts.
When the body decides to warm up blood begins entering the veins they previously left. My hands and feet would now turn a bluey-black, and once fully restored, a throbbing red. It feels hot and just as painful now, but definitely a relief that they’re not white and numb.
Over the past so many years as I’ve become accustomed to what happens to me, I’ve noticed my hands and feet are not the only places that get affected. Putting two and two together, I’ve now realised that the pain I get in my boobs at winter, or even summer when I feel cold, is the Raynaud’s too. To be more frank, it’s my nipples and they bleeding hurt when it happens! The very tips go white, in the same way as my fingers and toes do. When Raynaud’s strikes I’m often seen covering my boobs up in a vain attempt to warm up, and it’s neigh impossible to do anything about it when in public except whimper.
It’s extremely difficult not allowing Raynaud’s to come on when you don’t know it’ll happen. One minute you’re okay, the next too hot and then shivering for a coat wishing you’d put that extra layer on. Fluctuating weather doesn’t help as does overheated shops and then stepping out into an icy wind.
What can help Raynaud’s and how can you lessen the attacks? In my opinion, dressing well which doesn’t necessarily mean always trendily. Some fashions you learn to accept they’re best not wearing (high heels that can worsen constricting blood vessels) and others you embrace. I used to hate Ugg style boots but since last year I’ve worn them and felt such relief from the thick, furry lining. Cotton vests beneath long sleeved tops under cardigans can provide a better insulating layer. For actual warmth, you can’t beat instant hand warmers that you click into action and provide a divine heat to hold between your gloves.
Then there’s the matter of bras. For anyone who suffers the agonising pain of Raynaud’s in their nipples, I recommend you wear padded bras like me. Come winter time I avoid all thin materials including all over lace bras. Bras with pad inserts or moulded designs are the best option for ensuring the best coverage and protection of your boobs. When Raynaud’s attacks, there is nothing worse than the feeling of thin fabrics which in turn make your painful nipples rub and show through your clothing.
Good, thick bras that I always wear in the colder months include Freya Deco and Masquerade Rosetti.
If anyone else suffers with the uncomfortable affects of Raynaud’s Disease, what are your survival tips?