Why are my hands always cold?

man blowing on cold hands 
Does this sound familiar? You’re watching TV on the couch or working at your office computer and suddenly your hands feel ice cold, even though you’re not in a cold environment.
 
Do you find yourself constantly trying to warm up your cold hands?
 
There can be many reasons why you’re suffering from cold hands, including underlying health conditions such as neurologic, endocrine or cardiovascular issues. Occasionally, this can be related to certain medications.
 
People who have anemia, diabetes, lupus, scleroderma, thyroid disease, poor circulation or nervous system disorders may be more susceptible to having cold hands.
 
And for many otherwise healthy people, it simply represents their body’s natural response to a cold environment, and likely isn’t a cause for concern.
 
The underlying causes vary, but can be related to changes in blood circulation and/or neurologic changes. People with cold hands often suffer from cold feet as well, for the same reasons.
 
Excessively cold hands or feet, especially if it’s just one hand or one foot, can be due to severe underlying blood vessel disease and should be evaluated by your family medicine physician immediately.
 
How can you tell if this may be something more serious?
 
If your hands are persistently cold and change colors, this could be a warning sign of Raynaud’s syndrome.  Raynaud’s is a condition in which the peripheral blood vessels constrict too much in response to a cold environment.
 
Raynaud’s can be just a normal response to cold, but, in some people, it creates too strong of a constriction in the blood vessels in their hands or feet. The fingers might turn white and then purple or blue because they aren’t getting enough blood.
 
Eventually the fingers or toes will turn red once the blood vessel constricting stops and the hands or feet start to warm back up. This reduced blood flow can cause damage in some people. Severe Raynaud’s can lead to skin breakdown and ulcerations on the skin of the fingers or toes.
 
How can you prevent cold hands or feet?
 
The best advice is to dress appropriately for the environment to keep your hands warm. Wear hats, gloves and warm socks. Don’t forget to keep your core warm as well by wearing several layers and a jacket or coat. Hand warmers can provide temporary relief as well.
 
Avoid using nicotine products, including cigarettes.  Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor that causes your blood vessels to tighten up or constrict.
 
Avoid alcohol consumption. Exercise regularly to maintain good cardiovascular health.
 
Aaron Clark is an associate professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and associate chair in the Department of Family Medicine at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. 
 
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