Cold hands

Definition

It's common to have cold hands even when you're not in a cold environment. Usually, having cold hands is just one of the ways the body tries to control its temperature and shouldn't be cause for concern.

However, persistently cold hands — particularly with skin color changes — could be a warning sign of nerve damage, blood flow problems, or tissue damage in the hands or fingers. For example, if you are outside in extreme cold weather and you have cold hands, skin color changes could be a warning sign of frostbite.

Signs and symptoms to watch for when you have cold hands include:

  • Cold feet or toes
  • Changes to the color of the skin on the hands
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Open sores or blisters
  • Tightened or hardened skin

Causes

Cold hands may be caused by simply being in a cold room or other chilly environment. Cold hands are often a sign that your body is trying to maintain its regular body temperature.

Always having cold hands, however, could mean there's a problem with your blood flow or the blood vessels in your hands.

Causes of cold hands include:

  • Anemia — a condition in which the body doesn't get oxygen due to a lack of healthy red blood cells.
  • Buerger disease
  • Diabetes
  • Frostbite
  • Lupus
  • Raynaud's disease
  • Scleroderma
Hands affected by Raynaud's disease

Raynaud's disease causes smaller arteries that supply blood flow to the skin to narrow in response to cold or stress. The affected body parts, usually fingers and toes, might turn white then blue. Depending on your skin color, these color changes may be harder or easier to see. The affected areas may feel cold and numb until blood flow improves, usually after warming up.

Frostbite

Superficial frostbite, as seen here on the tip of a finger, is most common on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks and chin.

Buerger disease

In Buerger disease, the small blood vessels of the feet and hands become blocked with blood clots. Over time, skin tissue is damaged or destroyed. Open, painful sores develop on the toes and fingers. Not using tobacco is the best way to stop the disease from getting worse.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment to see your health care provider if you're concerned about persistently cold hands. Your provider can check if your cold hands are caused by a problem with your blood flow or nerves. Treatment is aimed at the underlying cause of your cold hands. Depending on your condition, your provider may recommend lifestyle changes to help improve symptoms.

Last Updated Jun 23, 2022


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