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If our fingers turn blue or bluish, this is due to a lack of oxygen, especially with Raynaud's syndrome or acrocyanosis, i.e. a vascular spasm. The arteries contract as the veins expand: the oxygen-poor blood in the veins shows up as a blue color.
Raynaud's syndrome is a circulatory disorder. The triggers are cold, wet or cramping. In extreme cold, the fingers turn white and cool down because no warm blood from the arteries gets into them. When the fingers warm up, they turn reddish because arterial blood penetrates them.
However, if the vessels are closed, the fingers turn blue. The oxygen is missing. Normally, the metabolism ensures that the vascular spasm resolves and blood gets into your fingers.
Raynaud's syndrome appears as vascular cramps in the fingers and toes. With primary Raynaud's syndrome, there are no basic diseases of the vessels. The victims are mostly young women, but also generally people who put a lot of strain on their fingers, for example by working on machines that permanently strain the blood vessels.
The primary Raynaud syndrome primarily affects women in or after puberty. A genetic disposition can be assumed because the disease occurs in families. The seizures are usually resolved by cold and affect both hands.
The secondary Raynaud syndrome, on the other hand, accompanies very different diseases such as nerve damage, scleroderma or arterial occlusive disease. Medications such as beta blockers or ergotamine can also trigger a secondary Raynaud syndrome.
Raynaud's syndrome is not only seen in blue fingers. Cramping of the fingers and rarely the toes, ear cups, nose, knees or nipples occur in seizures. Those affected feel pain, numbness and tingling.
The seizures can last from a few minutes to several hours. In severe cases, the fingertips die.
In Raynaud's syndrome, the vessels in the fingers, toes, and skin are narrowed too long. The body also throttles blood circulation in order to store heat. But in Raynaud's syndrome, the arteries close too much. With primary Raynaud's syndrome, doctors discuss nerve malfunction.
The doctor usually recognizes Raynaud's syndrome when those affected explain the exact symptoms to him. Then he must rule out that there is a basic disease. To diagnose secondary Raynaud's syndrome, the doctor takes blood samples that vascular specialists examine.
The primary Raynaud syndrome often goes away on its own. Medications that relieve the cramps are, for example, nitrates such as prazosin or sildenafil and calcium channel blockers such as nifedipine. In secondary Raynaud's syndrome, the underlying disease needs to be treated.
Home remedies and self help
Warmth helps against the cramping of the vessels. To do this, hold your hands in warm water, massage and move your fingers. Wear warm clothes, for example hand warmers or jackets with lined pockets. If you smoke, you should stop it at least for the duration of the discomfort, as it also narrows the vessels. A lot of exercise and sport helps against blue fingers. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Christiane Bieber et al .: Dual series internal medicine, Thieme, 2012
- Johannes M. Hahn: Checklist Internal Medicine, Thieme, 2006
- Frank Wappler; Peter Tonner; Hartmut Bürkle: Anesthesia and concomitant diseases: Perioperative management of the sick patient, Thieme, 2005
- Thomas Cissarek et al .: Vascular Medicine - Therapy and Practice, ABW Science Publishing Company, 2009