That is exactly the question I asked my running buddy over a year ago when she told me I had the disease.
Raynaud's Disease (pronounced ray-nohz and also known as Raynaud's Phenomenon) is a condition that causes some areas of your body (fingers, toes, nose, ears) to feel numb or cool in response to cold. To get all scientific on you, the smaller arteries that supply blood to your fingers or toes narrow and limit blood circulation. The result of this is that the skin turns pale or even blue. Once the area is warmed and blood flow returns, the affected area turns to red and then back to normal but is often accompanied by tingling or the "pins and needles" sensation. (source)
I actually have been dealing with this for a long time and didn't even know it. It really only affects my hands. Once my running buddy noticed my hands were really white after a long run last winter, she diagnosed it for me. All this time I just thought that my hands were cold and it was all normal.
On every single winter run, I always wear gloves and my hands are always warm while I am running. It is usually after the run that my hands start to go numb and white. Back in November, I was running a track workout with my running club and it was pouring pretty hard. I had forgotten gloves and my hands were so cold they went white and then turned blue before finally warming back up and turning red. In another case, I got into my car and didn't have gloves on - the steering wheel was cold and before I knew it my hands were numb and white.
It can be a simple case where I just touch something cold - the steering wheel, frozen foods; or it can be more drastic like what usually happens after my runs. It isn't that painful, it is more annoying than anything else because my fingers are numb. It makes grabbing items, buttoning pants, opening doors, taking off my running shoes and typing on a keyboard pretty difficult.
There is a way to quickly warm up your hands and return circulation. Once my hands are white and numb, I run cold water and put them under the faucet (I know that seems weird). I let the cold water run over my hands for a bit and then slowly turn on the hot water and increase the temperature. This is the fastest way I have found to bring my hands back to life. Sometimes I do get impatient and just stick my hands under hot water but it always make the "pins and needles" feeling worse and more painful.
The warming up process can be done naturally by just going inside but I prefer to use the water method. Letting my fingers warm up naturally usually takes a long time and can get pretty painful.
The pictures above are a good representation of what happens on a normal day when I wear gloves and I am prepared for cold weather. The best way I have found to avoid this is to use hand warmers; especially on the really cold days. Always wearing gloves helps as well, although I can usually get away with not wearing gloves when the temperature is above 40F.
Do you have Raynaud's? How do you handle keeping your hands warm in the winter?