.Persistent cold hands or a feeling of cold hands when the temperature is not cold might be a sign of a circulatory disorder.
Cold Hands Treatment
- Medications, such as calcium channel blockers and alpha blockers, that stimulate the blood vessels to open up.
- Regular exercise, which can improve circulation.
- Quitting smoking.
- Treatment of the underlying medical condition, if secondary Raynaud’s is diagnosed.
- Keep the area clean and dry
- Elevate the area
- Avoid refreezing
- Protect the area from pressure or rubbing
- Warming frostbite should not be done at home unless you have no alternative (such as impassable roads due to a snowstorm).
- In that case the water should be 99-104°F.
- The body part should not touch the side or bottom of the sink or bathtub.
- A hot tub is a good alternative, even if a little warmer than the ideal temperature.
- Warming frostnip can be done in the shower or sink or with a warm washcloth on the face or ears.
- Only rewarm at home if you are sure it is just frostnip (small superficial area, skin still flexible). If you think you may have frostbite, rewarming is better performed in the Emergency Department.
- When the part being warmed flushes (returns to normal color), you can remove it from the water. This generally takes less than one-half hour.
- Do not use other warming devices, such as an electric blanket, heating pad, or placing the affected part under running tap water. Your body part lacks feeling when it is frostnipped, and you may burn yourself without realizing it.
- The area will heal completely but may remain sensitive for weeks after the injury.
- Home care for other cold injuries generally includes avoidance of cold exposures and wearing adequate protective clothing when going outdoors in cold conditions.
- If you have any white hard areas on hands, feet, or other parts of the body or if you had white areas that have thawed, go to the Emergency Department for treatment of frostbite.
- If your hands or feet have been cold and wet for an hour or longer, you may have immersion injury and should also go to the Emergency Department.
- If a part of your body that has been exposed to cold is painful, go to the Emergency Department
Your symptoms of cold fingertips and hands during times of stress and cold exposure suggests the benign but annoying condition of primary Raynaud’s, also called Raynaud’s disease. However, it’s possible you could have the less common and more serious version—secondary Raynaud's, or Raynaud’s phenomenon. It is called secondary because the symptoms of cold and even painful extremities are the result of other health problems. Treatment for both depends upon the severity of the symptoms and the specific form of the disease. Keep in mind, too, that cold triggers can range from just taking something out of the freezer to being exposed to chilly winter temperatures.
Primary Raynaud’s usually appears between the ages of 15 to 40, is more common in women and those who live in cold climates, and affects up to 10 percent of the population. While we don’t completely understand the process of Raynaud’s, it appears the blood vessels in the extremities overreact to stress or exposure to cold by going into spasm. This leads to decreased blood flow and loss of heat. As a result the fingers and other affected areas feel cold and become pale or blue in color. When the spasm is over, the affected areas may temporarily turn a red as the warmth returns.
Secondary Raynaud’s produces symptoms similar to primary Raynaud’s, but is triggered by smoking or a medical condition, which includes:
- Previous fractures and vibration-induced injuries from, for example, the use of vibrating tools.
- Connective tissue diseases such as scleroderma or Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Autoimmune diseases such as lupus.
- Arterial diseases including Buerger’s and peripheral arterial disease.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Neurological disorders such as carpel tunnel syndrome and reflex sympathetic dystrophy.