Fingers that change color
Fingers or toes may change color when they are exposed to cold temperatures or stress, or when there is a problem with their blood supply.
Blanching of the fingers; Fingers - pale; Toes that change color; Toes - pale
These conditions can cause fingers or toes to change color:
- Buerger disease.
- Chilblains. Painful inflammation of small blood vessels.
- Necrotizing vasculitis.
- Peripheral artery disease.
- Raynaud phenomenon. Sudden change in the finger color ranges from pale to red to blue.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus.
Things you can do to help prevent this problem include:
- Avoid smoking.
- Avoid exposure to cold in any form.
- Wear mittens or gloves outdoors and when handling ice or frozen food.
- Avoid getting chilled, which may happen following any active recreational sport or other physical activity.
- Wear comfortable, roomy shoes and wool socks.
- When outside, always wear shoes.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if:
- Your fingers change color and the cause is not known.
- Your fingers or toes turn black or the skin breaks.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will perform a physical exam, which will include close examination of your hands, arms, and fingers.
Your provider will ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:
- Did the fingers or toes suddenly change color?
- Has the color change occurred before?
- Does the cold or changes in your emotions cause your fingers or toes to turn white or blue?
- Did the skin color changes occur after you had anesthesia?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have other symptoms such as finger pain? Arm or leg pain? A change in the texture of your skin? Loss of hair on your arms or hands?
Tests that may be done include:
- Antinuclear antibody blood test
- Blood differential
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Comprehensive metabolic panel
- Duplex Doppler ultrasound of the arteries to the extremities
- Serum cryoglobulins
- Serum protein electrophoresis
- X-ray of your hands and feet
Treatment depends on the underlying cause.
Jaff MR, Bartholomew JR. Other peripheral arterial diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 72.
Robert A, Melville I, Baines CP, Belch JJF. Raynaud phenomenon. In: Hochberg MC, Gravallese EM, Silman AJ, Smolen JS, Weinblatt ME, Weisman MH, eds. Rheumatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 154.
Wigley FM, Flavahan NA. Raynaud's phenomenon. N Engl J Med. 2016;375(6):556-565. PMID: 27509103 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27509103.