Glittery Snow Makes for Purple Lupus Toes

snow contributes to Raynaud's

A couple of days after a snow fall, I love seeing a field of undisturbed snow, warming under a radiant sun, glittering enchantingly. As I bask in the beauty of the white, bedazzled landscape, my toes recoil deep into their wool sacks (socks).

Both of my big toes and one of my 2nd toes have purple coloring, like they are bruised. While it’s conceivable that I stubbed them, due to my increasing clumsiness (so much for my dance training), that is not the case this time. My toes hurt worse than a bruise. Every step is painful and my toes refuse to be touched. (I think I even heard crying coming from inside my shoes.)

My Raynaud’s Phenomenon has flared up. I love how it’s called a phenomenon, conveying the syndrome with a cloud of mystery. My toes have a phenomenon attached to them. Does that mean they are phenomenal? Perhaps someone with a foot fetish might agree…

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Raynaud’s was the first quantifiable symptom of lupus that allowed my doctor to diagnose me. It took a winter wonderland that caused my toes to turn purple, added to all my other symptoms of a positive ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) blood test, extreme fatigue, malaise, headaches and migraines, photosensitivity, painful joints, and mouth ulcers to finally confirm that I have lupus. With Raynaud’s, basically my hands and feet (and even the tip of my nose, if I’m not careful) are not getting enough blood (thus oxygen), so they get overly cold and turn white and/or purple.

Now, every winter I have to be extra careful to keep my hands, feet, ears, and nose warm. I’m good with all of them except the nose. I need to invent a nose muff, like ear muffs, to keep the tip of my nose warm. For the most part, my Raynaud’s Phenomenon flares up on my toes. When this happens, my doctors prescribe either propranolol (Inderal) oral medication or nitroglycerin cream. I prefer the nitro cream because I apply it directly to the affected area; plus it also means one less pill that I have to ingest. I take so many pills already, if I can avoid adding another one, sign me up. If this phenomenon afflicts you, talk to your doctor about trying the nitroglycerin cream. If you decide to try the cream, be sure to wear disposable gloves when applying it. If you forgo using gloves, your hands will absorb some of the cream. Consequently, your body may get more of a dose of the nitroglycerin than prescribed. Also, remember to put socks on right away so that you keep the cream to yourself.

The best firsthand advice I can share with you is, don’t be like me – cheap. I love consignment shopping and I get a natural high from a bargain buy. If you have Raynaud’s, now is the time to invest in good quality wool socks. I embarrassingly admit, I felt a little faint from sticker shock when I bought my first pairs of wool socks at $10 a pair. But those socks have been saving my toes for over a decade now. As far as my hands, I find mittens work better than gloves at keeping my digits toasty. My secret weapon against the bitter cold and purple toes is wearing multiple layers of clothes. It makes a huge difference. I always wear a 2nd layer of an undershirt, even if it’s only a tank top. Another tip I recommend is avoid grabbing things out of the freezer with your bare toes. I’m kidding – I’m making sure your still with me. Seriously though, when you get something out of the freezer, don’t use your bare hands, use an over mitt or potholder.

I will always love the frosty season (from indoors), delighting in a winter show of majestic snow, while my toes hibernate in their cozy (and pricey) wool sleeping sacks. Remember that Raynaud’s Phenomenon is manageable and the most important thing is to keep yourself warm, see your doctor, and take care of yourself because you’re worth it.

socks for raynaud's