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Help! My fingertips are white and numb

You may have Raynaud’s Disease.

January 25, 2016

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Picture yourself outside on a freezing winter day. Can’t you just feel the tingling cold creeping into each finger and toe? Have you ever come back in from the cold only to worry because a couple digits are still white and numb?

According to Beth Averbeck, HealthPartners Senior Medical Director for Primary Care, you might be experiencing Raynaud’s (ray-NODES) disease – a blood vessel disorder which limits blood flow in the extremities, usually in response to cold temperatures or sometimes stress. Select fingers (and sometimes toes, ears or nose) will turn white, blue or both and take far longer to warm up than the rest of the body.

So you have Raynaud’s – what does that mean?

You’re not alone! Up to 10% of the population experiences symptoms and a heavy majority are women.

There are two types of Raynaud’s: Primary and Secondary.

  • Primary Raynaud’s is the most common version (90% of those with symptoms) and isn’t linked to any underlying issues. Although people might experience discomfort while their fingers are numb and cold, there’s no real reason “why” is happens to them.
  • Secondary Raynaud’s signifies there is a link between these symptoms and another medical condition (usually an autoimmune disease like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis).
photograph of a woman's hand

While there is no specific treatment for Raynaud’s, if you’re experiencing symptoms, talk to your primary care provider or a rheumatologist. If you’re worried you may have frostbite, learn the symptoms and what to do here.

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