Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Why do my fingers turn blue?

2/17/2022 by Denise Dupras, M.D., Ph.D.


Raynaud's disease is a condition where the small arteries, typically in the fingers and toes, spasm. This temporarily decreases blood flow in response to cold conditions or stress. The decreased blood flow results in a change in skin color — white and then blue. 

This color change is often accompanied with feelings of cold and numbness in the affected area. As the skin warms, it may turn red, and throb, tingle or swell. Normal blood flow typically returns in 15 minutes. Taking food out of the freezer or going outside without gloves or mittens on can trigger symptoms. 

It's not know what causes Raynaud's disease, but it's more common in women and most often begins between the ages of 15 and 30. 

While it can occur in people who are healthy, it's more common in patients who: 

  • Smoke.
  • Have other diseases involving arteries or connective tissues. 
  • Have carpal tunnel syndrome. 
  • Have an injury to the hands or feet. 
  • Use certain medications, such as high blood pressure, migraine, chemotherapy agents and some over-the-counter cold medications. 

Treatment depends on how severe your symptoms are and if you are having complications. Generally protecting the part of your body that is affected from the cold is the first treatment. Often it is all that is needed to prevent the symptoms. 

So bundle up before going outdoors. If your symptoms are severe, it can damage tissues and lead to sores, skin ulcers or dead tissue. If you have symptoms of severe Raynaud's disease, contact you health care team to discuss treatment options. 

Denise Dupras, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician in Community Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Palliative Care at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. She completed her medical and doctoral degrees at Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine and her residency in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Her interests include medical education, evidence-based medicine and care of LGBTQIA+ patients.