ZocdocAnswersWhy are my finger tips white when it's cold outside?

Question

Why are my finger tips white when it's cold outside?

I am a 40 year old male. I noticed that when I drive home from work when it's cold outside my fingers tips turn white. This has not happened before. Interestingly this does not happen all the time but I am curious why this happening now? Once I’m home its takes about ten to twenty minutes for them to return to normal.

Answer

Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition in which, usually in response to cold, the blood vessels in the hands constrict, which results in a white color (sometimes turning purple even) before returning to normal color when the vessels dilate again and blood flow returns. You should definitely get this check out, especially if there is any pain associated with this or any sores or ulcers on the fingers. Although Raynaud's phenomenon is often benign, it is more common in women, and it is unusual for it to appear for the first time at 40 years of age. Therefore, there are several medical conditions that might need to be ruled out, including a connective tissue disorder, a vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels), peripheral vascular disease, or an infection like hepatitis. This all of course depends on any other physical findings that your primary care doctor identifies on their physical examination. In the meantime, if you are a smoker, you should definitely stop, as smoking is one of the most important factors associated with the clamping down of blood vessels and impaired blood flow to extremities (peripheral vascular disease). Again, I would start with a call to your primary doctor.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.