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Fingers sometimes change color in the cold. They might become dark purple. In other cases they might be lighter than your palms, even white. I research why fingers change color. This symptom is called Raynaud's phenomenon.
Have you recently been in the cold? Even if I just open the door to my apartment, I can get some color changes on my fingers. Usually the tips of my fingers around the joints will turn red or purple. The cold weather triggers this for me.
Also:It seems even more likely if the weather is windy. Weather that is both windy and cold is the worst.
What causes Raynaud's phenomenon? The causes are divided into primary and secondary causes. With primary causes, the only symptom is the discoloration of fingers. This is called Raynaud's Disease.
And:With secondary causes, another system-wide (systemic) disorder is behind the symptoms.
Note:In medicine, many symptoms and signs have both primary and secondary causes.
Primary Raynaud's most often affects younger women. These people are often healthy overall. They often have a parent or other relative with the same problem. To determine if you have primary Raynaud's, we ask some questions.
Questions:Do any of my family members have color changes in their fingers?
Am I healthy overall?
There are many secondary causes of Raynaud's. Some of these are serious. This is most interesting for people who have other health problems besides the changes in their finger coloration.
Tip:In this case, you can use your symptom as a clue to a systemic disorder that might be treated better.Raynaud's diseaseSevere Raynaud syndrome
Atherosclerosis. This is circulatory problem—also known as hardening of the arteries. This is a common problem and a prevalent cause of death. Atherosclerosis leads to heart disease and stroke.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. This is a connective tissue disease. People who have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome often have hypermobile joints. They can bend their fingers back more than most can. If you had this symptom you would know about it.
Systemic lupus erythematosus. Lupus is one of the more common causes of color changes in your fingers. It is a connective tissue disease. It is thought to be autoimmune in origin. Lupus is hard to diagnose and causes many symptoms.
Also:Medications can cause Raynaud's phenomomen. They include beta-blockers such as atenolol.
Note:This is a complex problem—people taking atenolol also often have heart disease. It is hard to tell the root cause.
Looking over the causes of Raynaud's phenomenon—not all of which are listed here—it becomes clear that the most common one is heart disease. A large percentage of the population will develop heart disease—atherosclerosis.
Note:Atherosclerosis is a leading cause of hospital admissions. This is a serious health problem facing our society.Hospital Admission Data
Also, a combination of causes could lead to fingers changing colors. For example you could have a family history of Raynaud's disease, have heart problems, and also be recently exposed to the cold.
Further:Even medications such as metoprolol, atenolol and propranolol could play a part.Atenolol Side Effects
Another interesting symptom you might be able to detect on your hands is called digital clubbing. This is where your fingernails curve downward and become bulbous—like clubs. This is a potentially serious symptom.
Also:If you have discoloration in your fingers and finger clubbing, this is more likely to be a circulatory or pulmonary problem.Finger Clubbing
Therefore:In this case, the Raynaud's phenomenon—discoloration of fingers—is part of a systemic disease.
I have experienced Raynaud's phenomenon as well as other problems pointing to a circulatory disorder. These symptoms do not disrupt my life much. However, my changes to my fingers helped clue me in to a diagnosis.
And:In my case, a heart problem was behind the symptoms. I encourage you not to ignore Raynaud's phenomenon.
Tip:This could help you learn of a significant medical problem. Treating the underlying problem could improve your quality of life.
A single symptom, such as your fingers changing color in the cold, could have many different causes. It could even be caused by multiple problems. With Raynaud's phenomenon, overall health and family history are considered.
Thus:Color changes in the fingers is an important sign—one that should not be overlooked. But it should also not be overemphasized.