Hands and Feet Always Cold? Learn the Surprising Reasons Why

Do your hands and feet always feel cold for no reason? Our bodies constantly try to regulate our internal temperature, and sometimes, you might feel colder in certain parts of your body, even when you are in a warm environment.

Cold Hands and Feet: Why You’re Always Cold

When your blood vessels constrict, or get smaller, less blood can flow through them. This may make your hands and feet feel cold, even when the rest of your body feels warm or when you’re in a warm place.

There are many reasons why your hands and feet may always feel cold, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Buerger’s disease
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  • Primary Raynaud’s disease
  • Secondary Raynaud’s disease

Smoking

Tobacco constricts blood vessels, causing a feeling of cold extremities. Because of this, smokers often say that their hands and feet are always cold.

Buerger’s disease

Smoking can also lead to Buerger’s disease, a condition that can cause blood clots that lower the temperature in your hands and feet. While there is no specific cause for the disease, almost everyone who has Buerger’s uses some form of tobacco. Quitting all tobacco products is the only way to stop this disease.

Peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when plaque builds up in your artery walls, narrowing the arteries and decreasing the amount of blood flow to your arms, legs, neck, and abdomen. In addition to cold hands and feet, PAD can cause difficulty walking, painful foot ulcers, infections, and in severe cases, gangrene, or tissue death.

Primary Raynaud’s disease

Another possible reason for cold hands and feet is Raynaud’s disease. Primary Raynaud’s disease causes some arteries in parts of your body, like your hands and feet, to constrict in response to cold temperatures.

Women are more likely than men to have Raynaud’s disease. It is also more common in people who live in colder climates.

Treatment for primary Raynaud’s disease depends on its severity and whether you have other health conditions. For most people, Raynaud’s disease isn’t a serious condition, but can affect quality of life.

In rare cases, Raynaud’s disease can be more serious, especially if you also have:

  • Lupus
  • Scleroderma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Secondary Raynaud’s disease

Usually affecting people around age 40, secondary Raynaud’s disease can cause an artery to become completely blocked. Sores or even dead tissue may develop in some areas, which can lead to gangrene that can be difficult to treat. If left untreated, your doctor may need to remove the affected area.

When Should I Worry About Cold Hands and Feet?

You should see a primary care doctor if you notice thickening or tightening of the skin on your hands and feet, which can cause sores and cracks on your fingertips or toes that might not heal. You should also see your doctor if you have cold hands and feet with a fever, joint pain, or rash.

What Can I Do to Warm My Hands and Feet?

  • Avoid all forms of tobacco and caffeine
  • Wear gloves and warm socks when in cold weather
  • Layer up clothes to keep your body temperature up
  • Exercise and massage the affected areas
  • Bring any concerns to your doctor

To learn more, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).

 

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