What is this condition called when one or more fingers go pale every time when being in a cold environment?

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Is it something that can be handled without having to relocate to exotic countries?

1 Answer 1


The phenomenon you are describing and the one shown in the picture is known as Reynaud's phenomenon. In cold temperatures, the body constricts the peripheral blood vessels to prevent losing heat from the blood to the outside air. In Reynaud's phenomenon, this constriction is exaggerated and may prevent blood flow to the fingers or toes (and sometimes other areas) giving rise to the pale appearance shown in your picture.

Reynaud's phenomenon can be classified as primary or secondary.

Primary Reynaud's phenomenon, often simply referred to as Reynaud's disease is where the phenomenon is not associated with any underlying disease, and the cause is ideopathic (unknown). Primary Reynaud's phenomenon is considered to be a benign condition.

Secondary Reynaud's phenomenon occurs when there is an underlying disease that is causing the condition, the most common of which are connective tissue disorders such as lupus (SLE).

For treating the phenomemon, your doctor will first want to ensure that you do not have secondary Reynaud's phenomenon, and if you do, the treatment will vary depending on the underlying disease.

If you are found to have primary Reynaud's disease, then there are also a variety of treatment options available that should be discussed with your health care provider. Some of the options include:

  • Vasodilators - Vasodilators relax blood vessels increasing blood flow. Creams such as nitroglycerin cream applied to base of fingers may help heal ulcers.
  • Calcium channel blockers - Relax and open small blood vessels in your hands and feat, decreasing frequency of attacks.
  • Alpha blockers - These drugs counter the actions of noradrenaline, a hormone that acts to constrict blood vessels.

In addition, your doctor will likely advise you to not smoke (as smoking is associated with lower skin temperature due to constriction of blood vessels), exercise more (as exercising can increase circulation) and control stress (which may help avoid attacks).

  • Also, wearing gloves when going into cold environments - like food shopping in the frozen aisle, is one of the primary treatment recommendations. Cheap, very few side effects, effective in primary Raynaud's. Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 15:09

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