Raynaud’s Phenomenon: Why do my hands change colors?


Have your hands ever turned white, then blue, then red when they come in contact with cold temperatures? If so, you might be suffering from a condition called Raynaud’s Phenomenon.

So, why do your hands change colors? Raynaud’s  causes the tiny blood vessels in your hands to constrict to the point of almost entirely blocking the flow of blood to the area. This reaction is usually triggered by exposure to cold temperatures, although stress can also be a trigger.

When Raynaud’s Phenomenon is triggered, the temperature of the hands lowers and a distinctive pattern of color change in one or more fingers follows: first, they turn white because of the absence of blood flow; then they turn blue when the venous blood pools in the area; and finally they turn red when the event ends, followed by the affected fingers returning to their normal color. While this is going on, you might experience numbness, tingling, and clumsiness of the fingers. Pain is an uncommon symptom unless the lack of blood flow becomes prolonged.

Studies have shown that people who live in colder weather climates are more likely to develop Raynaud’s Phenomenon. In addition, it has been discovered that as many as 15-20 percent of women can have episodes of Raynaud’s, but the overall prevalence of this condition is approximately 3 to 5 percent of the population. The majority of people who suffer from Raynaud’s also has an underlying condition that contributes to the problem, such as: scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus, sjogren syndrome, or dermatomyositis.

In order to treat Raynaud’s Phenomenon most specialists will first recommend treatments that do not require surgery, such as: temperature biofeedback, conditioning treatment, and relaxation therapy. In addition, they will prescribe medications to prevent blood vessels from constricting.

As a patient, some things you can do to prevent Raynaud’s attacks, along with following your physician’s recommendations, are:

  • Learn about the disease process and what triggers it
  • Keeping hand warmers readily available
  • Avoidance of cold objects and/or trauma to the fingers
  • Reducing stress in your life
  • Avoidance of agents that can cause vasoconstriction, such as: cold medications that contain sympathomometics, drinks heavy in caffeine, narcotics, and serotonin receptor medications.

If you continue to have episodes event after taking the proper precautions and taking medications, your physician might recommend surgery to improve blood flow to the fingers and prevent ulcers. The most common procedure of this nature is called digital sympathectomy. During this procedure, the surgeon will identify the artery of the finger, and strip the outer layer of tissue off the vessel and separate it from the adjacent nerve laying next to it.

If you have experienced the symptoms mentioned above and if you suffer from Raynaud’s Phenomenon but haven’t been able to find proper treatment, give the physicians at Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas a call. We are here to help!

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The Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas offers diagnosis and treatment for hand, wrist, and elbow problems in Houston, using the most advanced and minimally invasive medical techniques. Our orthopedic hand specialists and hand and finger surgeons are waiting to provide you with excellent care at one of our hand care centers in River Oaks, Webster, North Houston, Katy/Sugarland, or Baytown

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