Chicago Health | Homepage
What causes a finger to turn white?

What causes a finger to turn white?

The Medicine Cabinet: Ask the Harvard Experts

By Howard LeWine, M.D.

Q: Over the past few months, one or two of my fingers will sometimes turn white and feel cool to the touch. The color comes back within a few minutes unless I am outside in colder weather. What might cause this?

A: The most likely explanation is Raynaud’s phenomenon. This is a condition in which blood flow to the fingers is temporarily impaired. Sometimes other parts of the body are affected, such as the toes, ears or nose.

Raynaud’s phenomenon is thought to develop because of an exaggerated constriction of the arteries that supply blood to the fingers.

We all have nerves that send signals to the small arteries of the fingers instructing the arteries to open or constrict. For example, the arteries normally narrow when you’re cold. This is the body’s way to conserve heat.

For unknown reasons, the tendency for arteries to constrict in the cold is exaggerated in people with Raynaud’s. After being exposed to the cold, artery constriction initially leads to whiteness of the fingers, then blueness and then, as the artery opens up again, redness.

Usually this sequence occurs over a number of minutes and the finger soon appears normal again. Besides cold, emotional stress and certain medications can also trigger this reaction.

Although Raynaud’s phenomenon can be associated with scleroderma, lupus or other rheumatic diseases, at least 90 percent of people with Raynaud’s have no other associated condition.

The first choice of treatment is simply to avoid letting your body temperature drop. Make sure you bundle up when the temperature falls outside. Also wear mittens rather than gloves. If you need to get something out of the freezer at home or in the grocery store, make it quick or wear your mittens.

There are other rare causes of white fingers, such as previous frostbite and intermittent blocked arteries from travelling blood clots.

Tell your doctor about your symptoms the next time you see him or her. No rush — unless the problem is getting worse, you experience additional symptoms or the white finger episodes start lasting longer.

(Howard LeWine, M.D., is an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. For additional consumer health information, please visit www.health.harvard.edu.)

(c) 2016 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Similar Articles

Count ingredients, not calories

Count ingredients, not calories

By Sharon Palmer, R.D.N. Shift your focus from the calories label to the ingredients label, and

Pneumonia a leading cause of hospitalization for children

Pneumonia a leading cause of hospitalization for children

What Doctors Know Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pneumonia puts thousands of young children

Cartilage repair, restoration becoming more common

Cartilage repair, restoration becoming more common

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I recently heard about cartilage being used in knee joints. Last summer

Discovering need to treat high blood pressure may be too late

Discovering need to treat high blood pressure may be too late

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham whatdoctorsknow.com Untreated high blood pressure, or hypertension, wreaks havoc on the

There is relief for side effects of iron supplements

There is relief for side effects of iron supplements

The Medicine Cabinet - Ask the Harvard Experts  By Howard LeWine, M.D. Q: I have anemia and

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

December 2016
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
November 27, 2016 November 28, 2016 November 29, 2016 November 30, 2016 December 1, 2016 December 2, 2016 December 3, 2016
December 4, 2016 December 5, 2016 December 6, 2016 December 7, 2016 December 8, 2016 December 9, 2016 December 10, 2016
December 11, 2016 December 12, 2016 December 13, 2016 December 14, 2016 December 15, 2016 December 16, 2016 December 17, 2016
December 18, 2016 December 19, 2016 December 20, 2016 December 21, 2016 December 22, 2016 December 23, 2016 December 24, 2016
December 25, 2016 December 26, 2016 December 27, 2016 December 28, 2016 December 29, 2016 December 30, 2016 December 31, 2016

Categories

Recent Comments

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

A Hazy Shade of Healthcare: What does tort reform

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives