Health Information

Fingers that change color

Fingers that change color


Blanching of the fingers; Fingers - pale; Toes that change color; Toes - pale

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.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • Causes

    • Buerger's disease
    • Chilblains - painful inflammation of small blood vessels
    • Cryoglobulinemia
    • Frostbite
    • Necrotizing vasculitis
    • Peripheral artery disease
    • Raynaud's phenomenon - sudden change in the finger color ranges from pale to red to blue
    • Scleroderma
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Home Care

    Avoid smoking.

    Avoid exposure to cold in any form. Wear mittens or gloves outdoors and when handling ice or frozen food. Avoid chilling, which may happen following any active recreational sport. Wear comfortable, roomy shoes and wool socks. When outside, always wear shoes.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your doctor for an appointment if:

    • Your fingers change color and the cause is not known
    • Fingers or toes turn black or the skin breaks
  • What to Expect at Your Office Visit

    The doctor will perform a physical examination, which will include close examination of the hands, arms, and fingers.

    The doctor will ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

    • Time pattern
      • Did the fingers or toes suddenly change color?
      • Has the color change occurred before?
    • Aggravating factors
      • Does cold or emotion cause the fingers or toes to turn white or blue?
      • Did this occur after you had anesthesia?
      • Do you smoke?
    • Other symptoms
      • What other symptoms do you have? For example:
      • Finger pain?
      • Arm or leg pain?
      • A change in the texture of the skin?
      • Loss of hair on the arm 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
    • Urinalysis
    • X-ray of the hands and feet

    Treatment depends on the underlying cause.

Related Information

  Skin discoloration...Raynaud's phenomen...    


Olin JW. Other peripheral arterial diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 80.


Review Date: 4/24/2013  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.


A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.