Rudolph the Red Footed Raynaud's Victim?
July 17, 2007 12:55 AM   Subscribe

Circulation woes: Why do my feet turn red when I get warm or exert? And why do they freeze so easily? And what's with the red nose?!

Whenever I exercise or on a hot day, my feet turn red as blood pools in them, and the veins stand out such that I can feel them through the skin. In winter I have the reverse problem, pain from the cold to the point that I sometimes do situps before I sleep to warm up. They also start to freeze quickly, meaning I have to be particular about bundling up in winter.

Meanwhile, my nose is red year round. It’s not bulbously inflamed, but pink like I have wind or sunburn and I’m known for icy hands even in the middle of summer. Elevation and/or massage typically normalize the problem in my extremities, but it distresses me that my protruding bits seem poorly serviced.

To make matters worse, squats or other rapid up and down motions make me dizzy and faint. I’ve never fainted, but I have had a few disoriented moments when I got up too quickly.

I’m trying to figure out how I can fix this. I know low blood pressure runs in my family, but the others don’t seem to have my hand and foot problems to the same degree. Is it possible it’s because I’m in terrible shape? What exercises rouse a sluggish circulation system? Should I wear diabetic socks? Could poor circulation be why I take so long to heal as far as cuts and bruises too?

Is this a possible major medical condition I should observe? I can’t find anything about red feet online, except for a snarky, racist comment that white women shouldn’t wear red polish because their feet turn red in sandals.
posted by Phalene to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've got Raynauds and generally crap circulation, poor veins - the works. My veins certainly come up when I'm hot and I get red-faced very easily - I'm very pale (to the point where if I see a new doctor, they will immediately try to convince me to have a test for anaemia, even though I've never been anaemic in my life), which I think is half of it. I've not had it checked but it does feel like the blood's pooling in my legs sometimes, and my fingers swell and shrink with the slightest provocation.

When you get in from the hot/cold to a different temperature and you start to warm up/cool off, do your extremities hurt and/or turn blue/white/red? That's pretty much the hallmark of Raynaud's. There are tests for it - capillary refill, and a check of your nail beds under a microscope. I'm not sure to what extent Raynaud's is linked with other circulation issues, but certainly in me it seems to be. But then my mother had Raynauds and high BP, so god knows :)

Feeling faint after getting up too quickly is generally orthostatic hypotension. Are you hydrated enough? Dehydration is often a factor in this.

I've had an ECG, which was normal, and various other medical checks for another reason, which never showed anything nasty up. My blood pressure seems to go through phases of being on the low side, but, at least here in the UK, doctors don't particularly worry about low BP if everything else checks out. But I'd get it checked, just in case. Maybe get a home blood pressure monitor and keep a diary of your symptoms and BP?
posted by terrynutkins at 2:30 AM on July 17, 2007

yeah, go to the doctor. probably isn't life-threatening, but at least the doc will help you understand the mechanism and any possible complications that might result.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:26 AM on July 17, 2007

Another Raynaud's person here. I've got similar issues as you and terrynutkins (and also particularly hate that my nose always looks at least a little windburned or sunburned.)

I do find that my love of ginger and my love of chiles both serve me well -- spicy food really does seem to help keep the blood moving. And yes, both exercise and massage seem to help my overall symptoms as well.

My doctors haven't been too alarmed. They acknowledge the Raynaud's, but since it is definitely primary and not secondary, they put it in the "inconvenience" category and prescribe mittens in winter.
posted by desuetude at 6:05 AM on July 17, 2007

As to why your feet get cold easily in cold weather, that's by design. The mechanism involved is extraordinary. When I was a cub engineer and studied zoology in college, it was one of the body systems which impressed me by its sheer elegance. (By contrast with the human spinal column, which is an engineering travesty.)

The main artery and vein which supply blood to the lower leg run side by side. As blood passes down the artery, it is next to a vein in which the blood is colder, so naturally enough the arterial blood cools. By the time it reaches your foot it's quite cold. Then, as it travels back up the vein, it's always next to arterial blood which is warmer, and thus heats back up. So the blood reaches your foot, but the heat it carries does not.

The purpose of the mechanism is to conserve body heat so that you are less susceptible to hypothermia, which can be life-threatening.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:10 AM on July 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Erm, Mr. Den Beste? Raynaud's Phenomenon. We're not talking about normal vascodilation.
posted by desuetude at 8:10 AM on July 17, 2007

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