What diseases can blue fingernails cause?

Blue fingers - causes and therapies

If our fingers turn blue or bluish, this is due to a lack of oxygen supply, especially in Raynaud's syndrome or acrocyanosis, i.e. a vascular spasm. The arteries cramp up while the veins expand: the oxygen-poor blood in the veins turns blue.

Raynaud's Syndrome

Raynaud's syndrome is a circulatory disorder. The triggers are cold, wet or cramping. When it is very cold, the fingers initially turn white and cool because no warm blood from the arteries gets into them. If the fingers warm up, they turn reddish because blood from the arteries penetrates them.

If the vessels are closed, however, the fingers turn blue. There is no oxygen. Normally, the metabolism ensures that the vascular spasm is released again and blood gets into the fingers.

Raynaud's syndrome manifests itself as vascular cramps in the fingers and toes. In primary Raynaud's syndrome, there are no underlying diseases of the vessels. It is mostly young women who suffer, but also people in general who put a lot of strain on their fingers, for example by working on machines that permanently strain the blood vessels.

Primary Raynaud's syndrome mainly affects women during or after puberty. A genetic disposition can be assumed since the disease occurs in families. The attacks are usually resolved by the cold and affect both hands.

Secondary Raynaud's syndrome, on the other hand, accompanies very different diseases such as nerve damage, scleroderma or arterial occlusive disease. Drugs such as beta blockers or ergotamine can also trigger secondary Raynaud's syndrome.


Raynaud's syndrome doesn't just show up in blue fingers. Cramps in fingers and rarely in the toes, ears, nose, knees, or nipples occur in seizures. People feel pain, numbness, and tingling sensation.
The seizures can last a few minutes or several hours. In severe cases, the fingertips die.


In Raynaud's syndrome, the vessels in fingers, toes, and skin are narrowed for too long. The body also normally throttles the blood flow in order to store heat. But in Raynaud's syndrome, the arteries close too much. In primary Raynaud's syndrome, medical professionals discuss a malfunction of the nerves.


The doctor usually recognizes Raynaud's syndrome when the person concerned explains the exact symptoms to him. Then he has to rule out that there is a basic disease. To diagnose secondary Raynaud's syndrome, the doctor takes blood samples, which vascular specialists examine.


Primary Raynaud's 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 must be treated.

Home remedies and self-help

Heat helps against the cramping of the blood vessels. To do this, hold your hands in warm water, massage and move your fingers. Wear warm clothing, such as hand warmers or jackets with lined pockets. If you smoke, you should at least stop it for the duration of the discomfort, as it further constricts the blood vessels. A lot of exercise and sport help against blue fingers. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
  • Christiane Bieber et al .: Dual Series of Internal Medicine, Thieme, 2012
  • Johannes M. Hahn: Checklist internal medicine, Thieme, 2006
  • Frank Wappler; Peter Tonner; Hartmut B├╝rkle: Anesthesia and Comorbidities: Perioperative Management of Sick Patients, Thieme, 2005
  • Thomas Cissarek et al .: Vascular Medicine - Therapy and Practice, ABW Wissenschaftsverlagsgesellschaft, 2009

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor.