Cold Hands and Feet

Many people complain about cold hands and feet, particularly when the weather begins to get colder. That is because humans are tropical mammals who have adapted to live in a warmer climate. In colder temperatures, the body will try to stay warm and in order to so, it will sometimes decrease the circulation in the nose, ears, legs, and arms as a means of keeping the core warm. If temperatures drop below freezing, it is possible for ice to develop in the areas of the body that have less circulation.

Is It Normal to Have Cold Hands and Feet?

It is common for people to have cold hands and feet and in fact everyone has experienced it at some point. Some people, however, will suffer from this ailment more often than others. If you are one of those people who seem to constantly have cold extremities, you may begin to wonder whether this is normal or indicates a problem.

Luckily most people with cold hands or feet will only have to deal with it temporarily. The heart pumps blood throughout the body to keep it warm but the feet and hands are furthest away from this organ. Because they are further away and less crucial than vital organs, hands and feet are more easily to get cold than other parts of the body. The fact that these limbs contain less fat and are frequently exposed despite the rest of the body being covered does not help either.

Because of basic biology, it normally isn’t a problem if your hands and feet are cold. It may be an issue, however, if you constantly experience this sensation.

Causes of Cold Hands and Feet

When you constantly have cold hands and feet, it indicates something. Sometimes this accompanied by pain can mean there is some sort of underlying illness. The following are some of the most common causes of this sensation.

1. Raynaud's Disease

This disease is not well known and tends to affect women more frequently although experts aren’t sure of its cause. Usually the cold feet and hands will be joined by pain and followed by numb and tingling sensations. Your hands and feet can appear pinched after exposure to cold because the blood capillaries suddenly constrict. Eventually the blood will return to the extremities but in the meantime, the numbness and tingling can be painful.

Warning: If you think you may have Raynaud’s, visit your doctor. It is not usually a serious condition and can be managed, but sometimes it may indicate a more serious issue.

2. Anemia

Women are at a higher risk of anemia. When you do not have enough iron in your body, the formation of thyroid hormone may be affected. As this directly controls your body’s metabolism, it also affects your perceived body temperature.

3. Diabetes and High Blood Pressure

Both diabetes and high blood pressure are linked to damage to the blood vessels. Either disease can lead to damaged blood vessels which are unable to bring enough blood to your extremities. This in turn leads to cold hands and feet as well as a change in your perceived temperature.

4. Poor Circulation

If there is some reason that your heart cannot move your blood around your body correctly, you will first notice it in your hands and feet. The elderly tend to experience cold hands and feet more often because circulatory function decreases as we age. Decreased circulation may also be due to obesity as the larger size of the body makes the heart work harder to get blood to areas, particularly the legs and feet.

5. Anxiety and Stress

Even stress and anxiety may lead to cold hands and feet. Stress may change breathing patterns, such as a shift to hyperventilation which prevents the body from receiving enough oxygen for the red blood cells to move about the body as they should. Stress may also increase production of adrenaline which will increase heart rate and therefore affect blood flow.

6. Damage to Nerves

Sometimes nerve damage can lead to tingling sensation, numbness, or coldness in the extremities. If your cold limbs are due to nerve damage and the issue is not treated, you may eventually lose complete sensation or need an amputation. Although there are many possible causes for nerve damage, some of the most common ones include diabetes and a deficiency or overdose of vitamin B12. In some cases coldness may also lead to permanent nerve damage.

7. Smoking

If you smoke and constantly experience cold extremities, quit as soon as possible. Cigarettes damage blood vessels, thereby obstructing blood flow. Heavy smokers may experience extremely cold feet or hands in the winter, circulatory problems or atherosclerosis.

Warming Up Your Hands and Feet

You should always address the issue if you have cold hands and feet. If you don’t, your tissue and nerves may become damaged due to a lack of nutrients and oxygen. Just to be sure, you should have a complete checkup to rule out any possible chronic conditions, high blood pressure and diabetes. You can also take preventative actions.



Put on leg warmers and gloves

Leg warmers can help keep your feet warm while gloves lined with silk will do the same for your fingers and hands. Both items insulate your skin, preventing tingling and pain.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Both caffeine and alcohol are vasoconstrictors which make your cold limbs worse, so you should avoid them. Also try to increase your consumption of minerals and vitamins while avoiding cold foods and objects. In the long term, you should increase your cardiovascular fitness and get enough exercise. Also be sure to follow a balanced diet.

Try herbal alternatives

Some people have also found the herbs helpful. Cayenne pepper generates heat, so you can put it in gloves or shoes. Gingko biloba improves blood circulation. You can also warm your skin by painting on oil- or water-soluble compounds.

For more information as to when to see your doctor for your cold feet, watch the video below:

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