How to Deal With Raynaud's Phenomenon During Sex
If you have Raynaud's phenomenon, how it affects your life—including your sex life—often depends on the severity of your case. For some people, the disease is mild and easily managed, but for others can prove completely debilitating.
Raynaud's phenomenon (also known as Raynaud's syndrome or Raynaud's disease) occurs when the small blood vessels in the fingers and toes go into a spasm, which reduces blood flow and causes the "pins and needles" feeling that sufferers experience.
You might not see how this could cause much trouble during sex, but the strange sensations of Raynaud's can sometimes affect more than fingers and toes, explained Natalie Carter, Ph.D., head of research engagement for the charity Versus Arthritis in Beckenham, England.
"Raynaud's phenomenon causes blood to stop flowing properly to the outer parts of the body," she said. "This happens mainly when you get cold, but it can also happen because of stressful situations. It most commonly affects fingers and toes but can sometimes also affect lips, noses, ears and nipples."
The condition isn't connected to age, so sufferers might not expect to be dealing with a circulatory issue that potentially could harm their sex life, Carter said.
"The condition usually affects young women and teenage girls, though men and older people can also be affected," she noted.
A tingling feeling
Raynaud's phenomenon is extremely common; people may not even realize they have it.
Raynaud's affects 1 in 6 people in the United Kingdom, said Sue Farrington, chief executive of Scleroderma & Raynaud's UK (SRUK), a charitable organization.
"But a survey by SRUK last year found that nearly 1 in 2 U.K. adults did not know any of the signs of Raynaud's," Farrington said. "Awareness is woefully low for a condition that is as common as hay fever."
According to Farrington, Raynaud's often causes issues in the bedroom and with relationships in general.
"Living with Raynaud's can be challenging," she said. "People often tell us about the impact it can have on their relationships and how Raynaud's can make intimacy difficult at times."
Raynaud's main trigger involves being cold, so getting naked before sex may be a difficult proposition Of course, you could choose to have sex with your clothes on, but there are more comfortable ways around this potential issue.
"We recommend keeping your bedroom at a comfortable, warm temperature," Farrington said.
The trick is to get comfortable
Marion Yau, podiatric nail surgeon from the award-winning Harley Street Foot and Nail Clinic in London, sees people every day with toes and nails badly damaged from Raynaud's.
"The cold causes a vasospasm in the blood vessels belonging to the surface of the skin," she explained. "This overreaction to the cold is unlikely to cause a life-threatening issue, but in severe cases, it may cause tissue damage and breakdown. As the small blood vessels narrow, the fingers and toes will become cold and turn numb. This can affect dexterity and make it difficult to walk. Other patients have reported cramping and that can cause severe pain."
Luckily, Raynaud's symptoms are often temporary, and as the skin warms up, the color of affected areas return to normal, and the coldness and numbness should dissipate.
Yau recommended a few tips to make yourself more comfortable and to make sure you're always prepared when the mood for passion takes you.
"Wear gloves and thick socks to keep those areas constantly warm," she said. "Wear two layers if you need to. Use a thermal blanket as this will keep your naked body warm, reducing exposure to your cold room. Do some jumping jacks and walk around the room before sex to get the circulation pumping and flowing better. Make sure your house is well-heated, keeping a room in the house warm and closing all windows. Put your socks on a radiator so they are warmed up before wearing them. Stop smoking as smoking causes more vasospasm."
Not only does smoking cause Raynaud's to flare up and be a more frequent problem but it can also affect libido, especially in men. Raynaud's is a condition where blood doesn't flow properly to the extremities, and smoking inhibits the ability of the blood vessels to dilate. Those two factors together can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED).
"Rub your hands and feet constantly to make them warm before having sex," Yau recommended. "Get adventurous and use touch as a way of warming up. A foot rub makes a great addition to foreplay."