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Why are My Hands Always so Cold?

Cold hands are uncomfortable both to you and to anyone they touch, but are they really anything to worry about? Sometimes those constantly cold hands can be a sign of illness. But most often, cold hands simply mean that your inner body has gotten a little too cool and your "core temperature" has dropped a little too low. If cold hands are especially persistent for longer than usual, it may be caused by poor circulation due to the hardening of blood vessels over time, hypothyroidism, anxiety, or infections.

Here are some other potential causes for persistently cold hands:

Cold temperatures pull warm blood from the extremities — including the hands — and draws it toward vital organs like the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Experiencing cold hands when spending time in chilly temperatures is normal, regardless of whether you’re indoors or outdoors. Wearing mittens and gloves can help protect your hands from frostbite in cold temperatures.

Poor Circulation and blood flow, which can prevent blood from efficiently reaching the extremities, can cause cold hands. Poor circulation to the hands may be caused by underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, blood clots, and Raynaud’s disease. People who smoke may also experience cold hands due to poor circulation. Quitting smoking and receiving treatment for medical conditions that cause poor circulation may help prevent cold hands.

Peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that may affect the hands (as well as the legs, arms and feet). This nerve condition is highly prevalent among people who have diabetes, and causes symptoms including pain, burning, numbness, and weakness in the extremities. People with peripheral neuropathy often have problems sensing temperature in their extremities and may experience cold hands and feet as a result. Nerve damage caused by peripheral neuropathy may be treated using medications and physical therapy.

Frostbite is a condition in which the skin and underlying tissue freeze to cause infection and nerve damage. In severe cases of frostbite, infection and gangrene can lead to amputation of the affected area. Frostbite symptoms includes numbness, cold skin, prickling sensation, waxy-looking skin, clumsiness, skin discoloration, and blistering after skin has warmed. Frostbite can be caused by exposure to freezing weather/temperatures and also by coming into direct contact with ice, cold packs, cold liquids, and freezing metals.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissue to damage joints, blood cells, and major organs. Inflammation triggered by lupus can lead to anemia and blood clotting, each of which reduces circulation and blocks blood flow to cause cold hands and fingers. Lupus can be caused by genetics, environment, infections, and certain medications, including antibiotics and antiseizure drugs.

Diabetes affects how the body produces or responds to insulin. People who suffer from diabetes tend to have high blood sugar levels that can cause nerve damage throughout the body, a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy most commonly affects nerves in the legs, feet, and toes, but can also happen in the hands and fingers.

Anemia is a condition in which the body lacks enough healthy red blood cells to deliver adequate oxygen. People who suffer from anemia generally feel tired and weak and might experience symptoms that include cold hands and feet, an irregular heartbeat, headache, or chest pain. Anemia may be caused by iron and vitamin deficiency. Poor blood flow and circulation triggered by anemia can cause cold hands.

Raynaud's Disease is a condition in which blood vessels in the extremities narrow and nearly shut down in response to stress and cold temperatures. This can cause numbness and pain in the extremities. Fingers and toes can turn white and blue in succession, then flush red as blood flow returns to the affected area. Common symptoms of Raynaud’s disease include cold hands, fingers, and toes and color fluctuations in the skin upon stress or exposure to cold temperatures. Raynaud’s disease is more common among people who live in cold climates and people who have jobs that cause repetitive trauma, such as using a jackhammer in construction work. This disease is also common in those who already suffer from related diseases, such as lupus and scleroderma.

Buerger’s Disease is a rare condition in which blood vessels in the arms and legs become inflamed, swollen, and blocked with blood clots. This can damage skin tissue and lead to infection and gangrene, which could result in amputation of the affected limb.Symptoms of Buerger’s disease include open sores on fingers and toes, cold hands and feet, and pain that comes and goes in limbs, toes, and fingers. Nearly everyone diagnosed with Buerger’s disease smokes or uses tobacco.

Atherosclerosis is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup on artery walls. This condition is marked by symptoms including fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, confusion, and cold hands. Healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly, eating heart-healthy foods, and quitting smoking can help treat and prevent atherosclerosis. Severe cases of atherosclerosis may be treated using medications or surgery.

For more information or to request an appointment, please contact Dr. Patrick McDaid, M.D. at


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