What Causes Fingers to Turn White in The Cold?

Do your fingers turn white and feel numb in the cold? Find out what causes this symptom.

When you go outside in cold weather, do your fingers turn white and become numb and tingly? If so, you could be suffering from a condition known as Raynaud’s syndrome. Although it may sound ominous, Raynaud’s is a fairly common phenomenon that affects both men and women, but is most frequently seen in women. With Raynaud’s syndrome, symptoms only become apparent when the hands are exposed to cold temperatures. When exposed to cold, the fingers turn white and numbness, tingling, or tightness usually develops in the fingers or hand. In some cases, the fingers undergo color changes from white to pink to red as the hand gradually starts to warm up. Usually the symptoms completely subside within fifteen to twenty minutes after a person escapes the cold.

Causes of Raynaud’s Syndrome: Why Fingers Turn White in the Cold

No one knows exactly what causes Raynaud’s. For some reason the blood vessels become hyper-responsive to cold temperatures and the vessels clamp down when exposed to the cold causing the fingers to turn white. In a small number of cases, Raynaud’s syndrome can be associated with an autoimmune disease, but the majority of people who have it are otherwise healthy.

When Fingers Turn White: Who Gets Raynaud’s Syndrome?

Women are more prone to this condition than men, although men who work with vibrating tools or machinery are prone to developing this condition. People who use their hands excessively to do fine movements such as typing or playing an instrument are also at higher risk of developing Raynaud’s syndrome.

How is Raynaud’s Syndrome Diagnosed?

The diagnosis can usually be made based on the history of fingers turning white in the cold, numbness, and the disappearance of symptoms as the fingers warm up. It’s important to rule out an underlying autoimmune disease that could be contributing to Raynaud-like symptoms. This is usually done with specific blood tests.  

How to Prevent Fingers Turning White in the Cold

The best way to prevent the symptoms of Raynaud’s syndrome is to wear gloves or mittens when going outside in the cold or buy special packs that can be heated and carried in the pockets to keep hands warm in cold weather. Gloves should be worn anytime the hands come into contact with cold objects. If the fingers turn white, warm them up by soaking hands in warm water for a few minutes until the sensation returns.

Smoking should be strictly avoided since nicotine constricts blood vessels causing the symptoms to worsen. Some medications also cause constriction of blood vessels and can aggravate Raynaud’s symptoms. In severe cases, calcium channel blockers can be used to prevent attacks. These should only be used in severe cases since they can cause dizziness headaches, and nausea. Finally, relax a little more. Stress and anxiety cause blood vessels in the hands to constrict and can bring on the symptoms of Raynaud’s.

Do your fingers turn white and feel numb in the cold? Find out what causes this symptom.

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The Bottom Line?

If your finger turn white in the cold, talk to your doctor, and take precautions to keep your fingers covered in warm gloves or mittens if you’ll be handling cold objects or going outside in cold weather.

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  1. Thanks Doc! Great one!

  2. Good info. Thanks for sharing. I was a medical transcriptionist for 35 years.

  3. good one kristie

  4. Great information

  5. Since it is common to have more than one autoimmune disorder, it is important for people with Raynauds to be tested for Celiac Disease. It is an often overlooked inflammatory disease that can cause lots of other problems. Many people do not have symptoms externally until it is advanced.

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