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Illness wrecked nursing career.

SUFFERER HELPS LAUNCH AWARENESS CAMPAIGN RAYNAUD'S Awareness Month is an annual health campaign which aims to create a greater understanding of the condition, which can lead to agony for the 10 million people in the UK who have it.

For sufferers any slight change in temperature, such as air conditioning, can cause the extremities of the body to become starved of blood. Typically, this can make fingers and toes turn white, then blue and finally red, when the blood is restored causing immense pain.

A small number of people who have Raynaud''s can also develop scleroderma, a disease which affects the connective tissue.

Nine out of ten cases are in women, with most sufferers having their first attack before the age of 40. Although attacks peak in the cold winter months, symptoms can be triggered by everyday tasks such as taking food out of the freezer, air conditioning, or even stress - all of which cause blood vessels to contract.

Experienced nursing sister, Kate Owen had never heard of the rare disease which robbed her of the career she loved.

Kate, 44, of Old Colwyn, had a responsible post in the intensive care unit at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan, but can no longer work there after being diagnosed with a debilitating condition called scleroderma, which affects the use of her hands. It also leaves her feeling exhausted and unable to stand for long periods of time.

"I loved nursing and hoped for a long career, but decided I would have to retire from it when I found I was dropping things and no longer had the energy for the long hours on my feet it requires," she explained.

Kate was fit and healthy until attending a bonfire night party in 2007 when she noticed that even though she was wearing thick gloves her hands were very cold and she had lost feeling in them.

"It was some time before I regained feeling in them, and my first thought was that I probably had a condition called Raynaud's Disease which affects the circulation and in the following March I went to see my GP," she said.

Her doctor also thought it might be Raynaud's, but blood tests revealed it was in fact the much rarer and more serious scleroderma.

She was referred to a consultant rheumatologist at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd who started her on a course of steroids.

"It was a shock to know I could lose much of the use of my hands, but I was able to continue working until March 2009 when it became obvious I couldn't continue," she said.

Scleroderma is an auto-immune connective tissue disease in which blood flow is impaired causing the tissues in the fingers and toes to break down. This may cause ulcers that can take months to heal and may become gangrenous.

More seriously, scleroderma can affect the heart, lungs, kidneys and digestive system.

Kate has developed recurring ulcers on her fingers and fears her lungs are also affected, but tries to keep active doing voluntary work.

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Kate Owen no longer works as a nurse after being diagnosed with scleroderma, which affects the use of her hands
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 13, 2012
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