Are Cold Hands Normal?

Q: My wife has cold hands all the time it seems. Is this something I should be worried about or is it just normal for women (that’s what she says)?

A: While I wouldn’t be so cavalier as to say that all women have cold hands, the complaint is a common one and much more often than not does not indicate that there’s ice flowing through the veins or anything else as cold-hearted or sinister.

When our bodies are exposed to cooler temperatures, the natural defense mechanism is tries to retain heat in the body’s core (where all the important organs are). In order to do this, the tiny peripheral blood vessels in our extremities constrict and limit circulation of blood to these distant parts of the body. Without good blood flow, the fingers, toes, hands, feet, nose and ears can all become cold. The best defense is to keep the body covered so it never has to put this defense mechanism into action.

If there are risk factors for cardiovascular disease (age, history of smoking, diabetes, family history, high cholesterol or high blood pressure), then cold extremities could indicate that there are blockages in the small blood vessels of the hand that are impeding blood flow. If this is the diagnosis, there are some medications that may be useful. Additionally, increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet may also help.

Raynaud’s phenomenon is a symptom associated with several conditions including lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, and certain medications (estrogen, nicotine, propanolol). When the fingers are exposed to hot or cold conditions, the blood vessels begin to spasm, limiting blood flow and causing the fingertips to turn white or even blue. In addition to feeling as if the hands are cold, Raynaud’s is generally painful. When talking to the doctor, make sure your wife gives a complete history of all symptoms, even if they don’t seem to be related.

Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting www.beekman1802.com.

Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at drbrent@care2.com.

11 comments

Vural K.
Past Member 9 years ago

thanks...
Kabin
Konteyner

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Nadia Stemberga
Nadia Stemberga9 years ago

Women are known to be more yang then men. Men are more yin therefore more warm, but not always the case... To resolve the issue of cold limbs (hands) is to eat food that are appropriate to resolve the coldness in the body.
Warming foods would be of tremendous help.
Warming foods are: basil, lamb meat, beef meat, cinnamon, ginger, fennel, cherries, garlic
Warming food will stimulate the blood flow and improve the immune system for individuals with cold limbs.

Someone that is hot should not be eating these foods, in those cases they must get foods that will cool them and help them maintain their system...
TCM is about bringing yin and yang in balance...
Certain herbal formula's and acupuncture would assist in resolving these issues...

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Pam S.
.9 years ago

Cold hands and cold feet can be a sign of Raynaud's. It is an autoimmune disorder that causes the blood vessels in the extremeties to constrict even in hot weather. I have Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, including Raynaud's, Lupus, and signs of RA. Keeping hands and feet warm are crucial for Raynaud's patients. She possibility needs to mention this symptom to her primary care doctor. There are simple blood tests that can determine autoimmune illnesses, as well as trained doctors can tell if a patient has Raynaud's by their symptoms and the doctor checking the patient over in an office visit.

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Ronda T.
Ronda T9 years ago

I would also consider a thyroid test

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Tracey S.
Chloe S9 years ago

I'm only 13 but I almost always have cold hands and feet. I am also a vegetarian and I heard somewhere that not having enough Vitamen B12 can cause cold hands ect. Is this true? Could I have cardiovascular disease or Raynaud’s phenomenon even though I'm this young?

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Alex R.
Alex R9 years ago

I've read this symptom (but not only this one) being attributed to hypothyroidism, which is more prevalent in women caused by iodine deficiencies that arise from its monthly loss.

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Pamela C.
Pamela C9 years ago

Thank you, Dr. Brent. I've been diagnosed as displaying Reynaud's, but the doctors did not explain much; now I know why I have finger pain even though I do not have arthritis in my hands.

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Anna M.
Past Member 9 years ago

I've suffered from poor circulation problems for over 15 years. I use the computer a lot. Here's some helpful products you may want to investigate further. Contact Anna at IGMproducts.com

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Olivia S.
Olivia S9 years ago

I'm curious to know if D. E-Platt is an acupuncturist, and if so has sucessfully "cured" Reynaud's phenomenon? That is to say, stopped the extreme reaction to the cold. I met a man who had neglected this so much, working in a cold foodstore, that his hands looked, well, dead - white as printer paper.... Not good, it would seem.

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D. E-Platt
D. E-Platt9 years ago

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM for short)
Our bodies contain what is known as the triple heater or triple warmer. Essentially we are talking about our body's furnace. When we eat cold foods, or don't supply warming foods & herbs in the diet, we are not providing the right fuel for the furnace! Particularly in the fall through into early spring, we need to add more warming spices & root vegetable into the diet for the body to stay warm. Look into adding
squash, & yams into the diet, along with ginger & you'll soon find it's easier to keep warm. Otherwise it's like insulating your house but forgetting to turn on the heat! The same can be said with wearing lots of layers of clothing, and then eating cold foods. Warming foods, from tea to soups will heat the body from the inside out. Those same foods will help your digestion as well - supporting your body on all levels to maintain warmth & your health.

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