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 your body tries to regulate 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 your hands, such as blue or white skin
  • 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 normal 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
  • Buerger's 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 or blue and feel cold and numb until circulation improves, usually when you get warm.

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's disease

In Buerger's disease, your blood vessels swell and can become blocked with blood clots (thrombi). This eventually damages or destroys skin tissues and may lead to infection and gangrene. Buerger's disease usually first shows in the hands and feet and may expand to affect larger areas of your arms and legs.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you're concerned about persistently cold hands. Your doctor 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 doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to help improve symptoms.

Last Updated Feb 4, 2021


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