Objective.—To determine whether high altitude travel adversely affects mountain enthusiasts with Raynaud's phenomenon.
Methods.—Volunteers with Raynaud's phenomenon were recruited using announcements disseminated by organizations dedicated to climbing or wilderness travel and Internet discussion boards dedicated to mountain activities to complete an online, anonymous survey. Survey questions addressed demographic variables, aspects of their Raynaud's phenomenon, and features of their mountain activities. Respondents compared experiences with Raynaud's phenomenon between high (>2440 m; 8000 feet) and low elevations and rated agreement with statements concerning their disease and the effects of high altitude.
Results.—One hundred forty-two people, 98% of whom had primary Raynaud's phenomenon, completed the questionnaire. Respondents spent 5 to 7 days per month at elevations above 2440 m and engaged in 5.4 ± 2.0 different activities. Eighty-nine percent of respondents engaged in winter sports and only 22% reported changing their mountain activities because of Raynaud's phenomenon. Respondents reported a variety of tactics to prevent and treat Raynaud's attacks, but only 12% used prophylactic medications. Fifteen percent of respondents reported an episode of frostbite following a Raynaud's phenomenon attack at high altitude. There was considerable heterogeneity in participants' perceptions of the frequency, duration, and severity of attacks at high altitude compared to their home elevation.
Conclusions.—Motivated individuals with primary Raynaud's phenomenon, employing various prevention and treatment strategies, can engage in different activities, including winter sports, at altitudes above 2440 m. Frostbite may be common in this population at high altitude, and care must be taken to prevent its occurrence.