Typically, poor circulation in the fingers and feet is attributed to Raynaud's disease. This disease can occur in people of any age, including children, and most commonly affects the fingers. Also referred to as the Raynaud phenomenon, the disease was first described as resulting in colour changes in the affected region. Fingers may turn white, blue or red as a result of this disease.
About Raynaud's Disease
Usually those who suffer from Raynaud's disease exhibit symptoms in both hands or in both feet. Raynaud's disease occurs when small arteries, or arterioles, that run through the fingers and toes go into spasm. When these arterioles go into spasm, the blood supply is cut off from the fingers and toes, turning them white or blue and numbing them. The blue colour means cells are being deprived of oxygen. However, the condition is rarely painful. There is a small chance that severe attacks could lead to tissues in the affected area dying.
Raynaud's disease is usually triggered by cold temperatures. Most people find attacks of the illness occur when they're reaching into the refrigerator, or when something cold is touching another part of their body. Strong emotions or shock can also cause attacks in a small percentage of those who have Raynaud's. There is no known reason why such stimulation causes attacks of Raynaud's disease.
Usually an attack that is triggered by cold temperatures is treated by warming up the affected hand or foot. However, some attacks can last hours. When the condition ends, the fingers and toes may turn red for a while before returning to their normal colour, and there may be a sharp numbness, or “pins-and-needles” sensation.
Diseases Linked to Raynaud's
Raynaud's disease is sometimes part of other diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, which is a disease that causes debilitating pain and damage in the joints. Those who have systemic lupus erthematosus, an autoimmune inflammatory skin and internal organ disease, may also suffer from Raynaud's. Those who have atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular disease where the arteries are hardened, and high blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension) are also susceptible to Raynaud's disease. Those who suffer from hypothyroidism, which is decreased activity in the thyroid gland, may also exhibit symptoms of Raynaud's.
Who Else is at Risk
People who suffer from other nerve disorders may also exhibit symptoms of Raynaud's, including those who have migraines, have nerve disorders, are exposed to vibrations (such as heavy machinery or power tools), have had frostbite, type or play the piano. Those who smoke also may be more susceptible to Raynaud's disease, and may suffer stronger attacks.