Proper blood circulation keeps our hands and feet functioning and at a constant, normal temperature. If this routine blood flow is interrupted or slowed for some reason, then they will begin to feel cold and/or numb. Depending on the reason behind it, this can be indicative of Raynaud’s Disease.
With Raynaud’s, the capillaries and other small blood vessels contract in an overreaction to a small drop in temperature or even just touching a cold object. This happens primarily in the fingers, but can also occur in the toes, nose and ears. It is visibly noticeable by a discoloration of the skin and numbness in the affected extremities. Raynaud’s Disease occurs more frequently in women than men.
Frostbite is more common and the symptoms begin quickly if you go outside in very low temperatures without gloves or other protection for your hands. These symptoms include blisters, change in skin color (black, blue or gray) and hardening of the exposed skin. While the skin will eventually repair or replace itself, extended exposure will destroy blood vessels, leading to permanent damage and possibly require amputation.
Stress can also cause reduced circulation and cold hands as well. Excessive mental strain causes the nervous system to contract the smaller blood vessels in the hands; this is particularly bad for sufferers of panic attacks. Cold, clammy, sweaty hands are a regular problem for them.
Diabetics suffer from peripheral neuropathy, which is a type of nerve damage that causes their hands and feet to feel cold. It is the result of blockages in the smaller arteries in the hands. This damage also happens to people who are heavy smokers or suffer from hypothyroidism and anemia. It also can occur as a side-effect to certain medications. The cold and numb feelings also include sensations of burning and tingling. If not cared for properly, victims of peripheral neuropathy will face amputation just like frostbite.
If your symptoms are not severe, then treatment may be simple:
- Wear gloves in cold weather
- If you smoke, stop
- Manage your stress to avoid physical reactions such as panic attacks
- Avoid tight clothing for the upper arms and torso
In cases of frostbite, keep the affected areas dry and clean. Do not rub or apply pressure and keep them elevated, if possible, to speed healing. Sufferers of Raynaud’s Disease take a regular calcium channel blocker. For Diabetics, this means controlling your blood sugar. Iron and Vitamin C supplements are prescribed for people with Anemia.
Whatever your cause and symptoms may be, please consult with your primary care provider before starting any treatment. Good luck and good health!