Numbness of an extremity is referred to as paresthesia. It is normally not a cause of concern, but in some instances may indicate underlying medical problems. When accompanied by pale fingers (also called blanching), it may point to health issues and should be investigated.
Causes of Loss of Sensation and Discoloration in Fingers
Temporary tingling and discoloration of fingers can be a normal response to cold. This can happen when you are outside in extreme temperatures without gloves, or when you hold onto something cold, such an iced beverage. However, fingers that turn white and go numb may also be a result of a condition called Raynaud's Syndrome.
Another phenomenon that can cause whiteness and numbness is Vibration-Induced White Finger (VWF). It's similar to Raynaud's, but VWF is caused by using vibrating hand tools, like jackhammers. Both syndromes involve blood vessels that constrict or spasm.
Types of Raynaud's Syndrome
Raynaud's can be what is called primary, with no cause behind the constriction of blood vessels, numbness and pale extremities. Or it may be secondary, which means it is the result of an underlying illness (such as lupus, vasculitis, diabetes, scleroderma, artery or thyroid disease or rheumatoid arthritis), some medications, or from injury from carpal tunnel or even smoking.
Treatment for White, Numb Fingers
If numbness is the result of temporary constriction of blood vessels from lack of circulation, exercising your fingers or swinging your arms in large circles can force blood back into the extremities to get sensation back into the fingers.
Symptoms of Raynaud's may be relieved by stopping smoking or medications that cause blood vessels to constrict. Treating an underlying condition, such as thyroid problems or diabetes, may also help give relief.
If Raynaud's symptoms are severe, treatment may include heart medications that affect blood vessels, called calcium channel blockers. Doctors will also sometimes prescribe a vasodilator, which causes blood vessels to open up. In extreme cases, nerve surgery or injections may help.
- American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Care 2007
- Merritt's Neurology. 11th ed. Baltimore, Md: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005:chap 5.
- Photo Credit Photo courtesy of dichohecho
Causes of Numb & Cold Fingers
Numb and cold fingers can be related to injury or nerve irritation and can often lead to a diagnosis of Reynaud's phenomenon,...
What Causes Numbness in Fingertips?
We all get cold, very cold, from time to time, especially if we're not dressed warmly enough in the winter. But if...
Medical Conditions That Cause Blue Fingers
There are several reasons your fingers may turn blue. The most simple diagnosis may be bruising. Or it could be cyanosis, which...
What Do Purple & Numb Toes Mean?
Toes that are numb and turn purple are extremely cold toes or the result of an underlying medical condition. If you are...
- Why Do Gold Rings Turn Your Finger Green?
What Does it Mean When Yours Fingers Are Numb & Tingly?
Numbness in the fingers accompanied by a tingling or “pins and needles” feeling is a symptom of a condition affecting either the...
Why Does Skin Turn White When it Gets Burned?
Burning causes damage to various layers of your skin, depending on the severity of the burn. Whiteness at the burn site may...
Why Are My Fingers Going Numb?
Numbness, considered as an abnormal condition, can happen from a number of causes. Your fingers can become numb due to a lack...
How to Interpret Numbness in the Tips of the Fingers
Numbness or a tingling sensation in the fingertips (or other extremities) can be caused by a multitude of medical ailments. Sensory loss...
How to: Cures for Numb Fingertips
Numbness in a body part is typically caused by a lack of circulation, which cuts off blood supply. The body part, such...