Ask The Expert
January 03, 2011
There are several possibilities.
The most likely explanation is Raynaudís phenomenon. This is a condition in which blood flow to the fingers is temporarily impaired. Sometimes other parts of the body are affected, such as the toes, ears or nose.
Raynaudís is thought to develop because of an exaggerated constriction of the arteries that supply blood to the fingers.
We all have nerves that send signals to the small arteries of the fingers instructing the arteries to open or constrict. For example, the arteries normally narrow when youíre cold. This is the bodyís way to conserve heat.
For unknown reasons, the tendency for arteries to constrict in the cold is exaggerated in people with Raynaudís. After being exposed to the cold, artery constriction initially leads to whiteness of the fingers, then blueness and then, as the artery opens up again, redness. Usually this sequence occurs over a number of minutes and the finger soon appears normal again. Besides cold, emotional stress and certain medications can also trigger this reaction.
Although Raynaudís can be associated with scleroderma, lupus or other rheumatic diseases, at least 90% of people with Raynaudís have no other associated condition.
The first choice of treatment is simply to avoid the cold. Here are some tips:
For more severe Raynaudís, medications are available that can help.
Another possible cause of a white finger is frostbite. However, when frostbite is severe enough to cause an entire finger to turn white, other fingers are usually red and swollen, and the white area may be hardened. Other symptoms are typically present such as:
Also, frostbite is not reversible within minutes the way Raynaudís phenomenon is.
Finally, a white finger could be related to an artery blockage. This may occur with a blood clot. However, if a blood clot was the cause, the finger would soon turn dark and become quite painful. This is a very unlikely cause in a 15 year old.
Since this has happened before, itís a good idea to bring it to the attention of your daughterís doctor. After a review of her symptoms and a physical examination, there may be little more to do other than avoid situations that trigger Raynaudís.