Do you or someone you know often complain of constantly having cold hands and feet? In most cases, this is not a problem, and simply due to the body maintaining its temperature.
For our body, the blood is a fantastic store of heat. By diverting blood to the skin, heat is transferred to the outside air, helping to cool us down. That’s why we can look a little “red” on a hot day.
On the other hand, when we are cold, the blood vessels in our skin narrow, so less blood is diverted there. Less blood means less heat, and this becomes especially noticeable in the hands and feet.
It is a normal process that shows that our body is doing its job of maintaining a normal internal temperature and protecting our organs.
Normally the feeling is only temporary. But if someone still has cold hands and feet, even when their body is quite warm, this could be a sign that something else is contributing.
Could there be other causes?
Anything that causes your blood vessels to narrow can impact how warm your extremities feel.
This can be due to causes such as Raynaud’s phenomenonin which certain blood vessels going to the extremities are temporarily narrowed.
People with Raynaud’s disease usually have very pale, cold fingers or toes.
In some cases, it is not known why people have Raynaud’s symptoms. In other cases, it may be the result of a underlying causessuch as immune deficiency or associated with high blood pressure.
But other factors could also be the cause of unusually cold hands. Anything that blocks the passage of blood through the vessels can make the extremities colder.
For example, people with Diabetes are more likely to form fatty deposits inside blood vessels, making them narrow and hard and inhibiting blood flow.
Trauma or tissue damage can also lead to inhibition of blood flow to the area. If someone has had surgery on their hand or arm, or had an injury in the past, this can impact how hot their extremities feel.
Another possible cause is anemiawhich can interfere with the transport of oxygen-rich blood through the body and lead to cold hands and feet.
Smoking may also be behind a case of icy fingers and toes; nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow and reduces blood flow.
When is it a concern?
Under normal circumstances, cold hands and feet are not a concern.
But just keep in mind that this is due to reduced blood supply reaching the extremities. Over time, this can lead to brittle nails, dry or cracked skin, discolored skin, and tingling or numbness in the areas.
These regions may also be less sensitive to cold; and it can even become very painful to use your fingers or feet when they are icy.
Reduced blood supply can slow the healing of hands and feet if injured, which can allow infections to persist and grow.
Over time, inhibited blood flow can also damage nerves. The impact on the nerves, along with the increased risk of infection, can sometimes lead to the need for amputations.
So if constantly cold hands and feet are a concern for you, it’s always worth talking to your family doctor.
What should I do for my cold hands and feet?
If you start to feel a temporary chill in your extremities, stick to the basics. You can:
put on a pair of thick socks; it is also beneficial for sleep, as research shows that warming the feet can help sleep quality
wear gloves or mittens
wash your hands with lukewarm water and dries immediately them after
avoid sudden temperature changes by wearing layers of warm clothing to maintain your core temperature
avoid air-conditioned rooms as much as possible and find comfortable places in the sun during the day.
In the long run, improving your circulation is essential. It helps to warm your hands and feet ensuring that the body effectively pumps blood to where it needs to go.
This can be achieved with daily exercises, moving at regular intervals during the day and stretching your arms and legs. And of course, maintain a healthy diet.
This way, even if you have a temporary chill, you’ll warm up in no time!
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