DEAR DOCTOR K: When I'm out in the cold, my fingers quickly go from cold to numb and often turn whitish. This goes beyond normal feelings of cold. What could be going on?
DEAR READER: What you're describing -- cold, white (sometimes even bluish), numb fingers -- are the hallmarks of an illness called Raynaud's phenomenon. When I first learned about Raynaud's in medical school, I called it the "almost patriotic" illness. That's because its colors are white, blue and red, in that order: WHITE. When people with Raynaud's go out into cold weather, the first thing that happens is that small arteries in the fingers go into spasm.