What Can Cause Red Fingers?

N. Madison
N. Madison

There are many possible causes of red fingers. Among those most likely to cause this symptom are extreme changes in temperature, such as exposure to very cold then warm or hot weather. Conditions like scleroderma and Raynaud’s phenomenon can also cause this color change. Additionally, a person may notice a reddened appearance in his fingers when he has an infection that affects his hand or if he develops a rash on his fingers.

Changes in extreme temperature may cause red fingers.
Changes in extreme temperature may cause red fingers.

Often, the cause of finger discoloration is a change in temperature. For example, some people notice that their fingers take on a reddish tint when they are outside in the cold or when they return to warm indoor temperatures after being outdoors on a frigid day. Touching something that is very warm or hot can also cause the fingers to appear red, especially if they get burned. This effect is usually temporary, however, and generally fades in time.

Touching something very hot may cause red fingers.
Touching something very hot may cause red fingers.

Some types of medical conditions can cause this condition as well. In some cases, red fingers occur because of a condition called scleroderma, which is marked by inflammation and damage to a person’s artery walls. It also causes a person’s body to form scar tissue under the skin. With this condition, a person typically experiences a narrowing of the blood vessels in his fingers as well as in other extremities, and this change leads to discoloration of the affected areas. In such a case, a person may note that his fingers begin to look pale and then turn a bluish color before turning red.

An infection may cause red fingers and swollen hands.
An infection may cause red fingers and swollen hands.

Raynaud’s phenomenon is another condition that can cause red fingers. In fact, it causes the same change in finger coloring as scleroderma. This is due to the fact that Raynaud’s phenomenon is actually one of the symptoms of scleroderma. Raynaud’s phenomenon is characterized by the hand or fingers going through a cycle of three colors; white, blue, and then red. This is caused by exposure to certain temperatures or because of conditions that cause the blood vessels in the hand and fingers to narrow, which cuts off the blood supply. When the vessels re-widen, the fingers turn red as the blood rushes back in.

Red fingers may be caused by scleroderma, a condition characterized by the hardening of the skin.
Red fingers may be caused by scleroderma, a condition characterized by the hardening of the skin.

An infection or a rash can also result in red fingers. Typically, an infection that involves one’s fingers causes inflammation in the area, and one of the results of the inflammation can be reddened fingers. In such a case, the affected fingers may be swollen, in addition to the color change. Sometimes, however, a rash is at fault, causing red bumps or spots that give the fingers an overall reddened appearance.

People with Raynaud's phenomenon may experience red and tingling fingers.
People with Raynaud's phenomenon may experience red and tingling fingers.
Exposure to cold weather may cause red fingers.
Exposure to cold weather may cause red fingers.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

burcidi

When I asked my professor about which disorders cause red fingers, he listed so many of them -- arthritis, Crohn's disease, Raynaud's disease, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, etc.

But apparently, the exact tone of the red is also important. For example, if the red is bluish, then it's a sign that there is a problem with the lungs. Oxygen causes the blood to be bright red. If blood doesn't have enough oxygen, it can turn a bluish red.

turquoise

@turkay1-- Don't worry, that's normal. It's because of the sudden temperature change. Our body is not able to adapt to temperatures very quickly. I think when the nerves experience a sudden temperature change, it causes pain. Your fingers are probably red for the same reason. Hot water can always make your fingers red because it increases temperature and circulation.

candyquilt

During winter, when I come home and wash my hands with warm water, my fingers become red and hurt a lot. Why does this happen?

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