Cold Hands and Feet

Cold Hands and Feet: Overview

Cold extremities occur when blood vessels are constricted or slightly obstructed.  This may be due to increased connective tissue tension around the blood vessels, which causes a reduction in the passage of blood through the skin.  The hands or feet may change color, from pink through purple, orange, and blue even to white.  As they warm up again, the color changes back again in reverse order, often accompanied by a feeling of throbbing or buzzing.

Causes and Development

A lot of us have cold hands or feet and simply put up with it.  For some people it can be a serious problem – especially if they get very cold.  Some people wear mittens and heavy socks all year round, even in warm weather, indoors and out.  Their hands and feet are always cold.  A number of things cause this, such as:
  • Poor circulation due to coronary heart disease
  • Raynaud's disease (disorder that affects the flow of blood to the fingers and sometimes to the toes)
  • Frostbite
  • Working with vibrating equipment (like a jackhammer)
  • A side-effect of taking certain medications
  • An underlying disease affecting blood flow in the tiny blood vessels of the skin.  (Women smokers may be prone to this).
  • Stress
Some people's blood vessels are hypersensitive to cold and tend to go into spasm, a condition known as Raynaud's Syndrome.  This is most common in young women.  The fingertips, then the fingers and even the whole hand become cold and go white.  They go numb and have difficulty doing fine movements.  Sometimes the feet are also affected.  In the most extreme of circumstances where for some reason the blood supply to an area is restricted for a prolonged period of time frost bite or gangrene can occur.

Treatment and Prevention

If wearing gloves and wool socks and staying indoors where it's warm is a nuisance or doesn't help, try these other warm-up tips:
  • Don't smoke.  It impairs circulation.
  • Avoid caffeine.  It constricts blood vessels.
  • Avoid handling cold objects.  Use ice tongs to pick up ice cubes, for instance.
  • With fingers outstretched, swing your arms in large circles, like a baseball pitcher warming up for a game.  This may increase blood flow to the fingers.  (Don't do this if you have bursitis or back problems!)
  • Do not wear footwear that is tight-fitting.
  • Wiggle your toes.  It may help keep them warm as a result of increased blood flow.
  • Practice a relaxation technique, such as biofeedback.

Cold Hands And Feet

Information On This Page

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Cold Hands and Feet:

Symptoms - Metabolic

Risk factors for Cold Hands and Feet:

Circulation

Poor Circulation increases risk of Cold Hands and FeetPoor Circulation
In cases of peripheral vascular disease, the arteries narrow and there is a marked reduction of blood flow especially to the fingers and toes.

Environment / Toxicity

Hormones

Progesterone Low or Estrogen Dominance may increase risk of Cold Hands and FeetProgesterone Low or Estrogen Dominance
Cold hands and feet, often caused by low thyroid function, may be a symptom of estrogen excess or low progesterone influencing thyroid function.

Immunity

Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia Syndrome often increases risk of Cold Hands and FeetChronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia Syndrome
Raynaud's phenomenon (severe cold hands and feet) affects about 16% of fibromyalgia sufferers.

Mental

Recommendations for Cold Hands and Feet:

Botanical

Cayenne Pepper often helps with Cold Hands and FeetCayenne Pepper
In cold climates, cayenne powder can be used topically as well as internally.  One-eighth of a teaspoon sprinkled into each shoe and/or glove acts to help the body generate heat.  Water-soluble components in cayenne dilate capillaries in the skin surface, producing an immediate sensation of heat.  Within 15 minutes, oil-soluble compounds reach deeper tissues, generating warmth for hours.
Ginkgo Biloba may help with Cold Hands and FeetGinkgo Biloba
Gingko has an documented reputation for improving circulation, and is sometimes of help for cold hands and feet.
Ginger Root may help with Cold Hands and FeetGinger Root
A warming herb sometimes helpful in improving circulation.

Detoxification

Habits

Vitamins

KEY

Weak or unproven link: may increase risk of
Weak or unproven link:
may increase risk of
Strong or generally accepted link: often increases risk of
Strong or generally accepted link:
often increases risk of
Definite or direct link: is a sign or symptom of; increases risk of
Definite or direct link:
is a sign or symptom of; increases risk of
May be useful: may help with
May be useful:
may help with
Moderately useful: often helps with
Moderately useful:
often helps with