Having cold hands and feet in a warm environment is confusing to many and a cause of worry for others. Often though it is just a part of your body’s natural response to regulate your body temperature and shouldn’t be cause for concern.
But if you have persistently cold hands and feet, particularly if accompanied by color changes, it could be a warning sign. Having cold hands and feet could mean you have a problem with your nerves, blood circulation or a problem with damaged tissue. Other signs and symptoms to watch for when you have cold hands and feet include:
- Changes in the color of your skin on your hands and feet, such as blue or white skin
- Numbness or tingling
- Open sores or blisters
- Tightened or hardened skin
If you feel like your extremities are often cold, you may wonder when you should see a doctor.
This is what you need to know:
Cold hands and feet are a common complaint, but generally when this occurs amongst young and healthy people, you have to take it more seriously. Cold extremities can signal other, more serious problems, including peripheral artery disease (PAD), rheumatologic conditions, such as scleroderma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis; or underactive thyroid.
Raynaud’s disease, a common and generally benign condition that causes the blood vessels in the fingers and toes to be overly constricted could be the reason behind cold hands and feet. Arteries in the fingers and toes constrict suddenly, and the vessels slam shut causing temporary color changes. The color changes can be quite alarming, but in people with the primary or benign form of Raynaud’s or people with no underlying disease, they are harmless.
Although Raynaud’s is usually a harmless condition, it can also occur in people with underlying rheumatologic or vascular disease and may be associated with small pits or ulcerations in the fingers or toes that are difficult to heal.
Go and see your doctor if you have cold extremities and symptoms like: poorly healing sores or cracks on the fingertips or toes, thickening or tightening of the skin, fatigue, weight changes, fever, joint pain or rashes.
The feeling of uncomfortably chilly fingers or toes often varies from person to person but can be helped if you:
- Keep your hands and feet warm. Wear warm footwear and wool socks.
- Keep your body warm by wearing layered clothing which you can remove as needed,.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine. that can further aggravate the effect of the cold.
Seniors and peripheral artery disease
Cold hands and feet in older people can also be caused by PAD, which occurs when arteries become narrowed or blocked as plaque gradually forms inside the artery walls.
PAD usually affect people aged 50 years or older with a history of diabetes or smoking, while anyone aged 70 and above generally should be screened.