It’s normal for fingers to get cold in cold weather. However, if your fingers or hands are often cold, it could be a sign of a medical condition. If you also experience changes in skin tone, numbness, pain, or tingling, you may also experience Raynaud’s phenomenon, a condition sometimes called poor circulation.
This article will discuss common causes of cold fingers. It will cover issues including white fingertips, swollen fingers in cold weather and poor circulation in the fingers. It will also discuss when to seek help and which vitamins may help with cold fingers.
Is it normal to have cold fingers?
Feeling cold is a normal response when your body is exposed to harsh weather and cooler temperatures. Most people experience cold fingers after shoveling a driveway or skiing. Learn why it’s important to know a little bit about circulation.
As blood circulates throughout the body, it brings nutrients and keeps the body warm. However, when the body is exposed to cold temperatures, the blood vessels in the hands and feet constrict or constrict.
This allows more blood flow to the core and head where your most vital organs are located. Unfortunately, it also means less blood flow to your hands and feet. This can lead to cold fingers or toes. Usually, once you get inside and start to warm up, blood flow returns to normal.
When the blood vessels in the fingers or toes constrict too much, the relative ischemia (not enough blood to reach an area) may develop. This can be painful. When it happens, it’s called Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Usually, this happens with changes in temperature. For example, if you go into a 70-degree air-conditioned building from a 90-degree day, it could happen in the summer.
Condition related signs
Signs that your fingers are cold may be cause for concern. The following conditions may indicate that your cold fingers are related to a physical condition, not just cold weather:
- Changes in color, including white, red, or blue on the fingertips
- Cold hands even in mild weather
- hard-to-warm hands
- Pain in addition to feeling cold
- Gloves are required when handling frozen food
- slow-healing hand or finger cuts
Poor circulation in the fingers
In most cases, cold fingers are related to circulation problems in the hands and fingers. Two ways poor circulation can cause cold fingers are:
- Vasoconstriction: It is normal for the body to constrict blood vessels from cold. However, if your body constricts blood flow too much or for too long, it can lead to a condition called vasoconstriction, which can cause your fingers to be abnormally cold.
- Vascular occlusion: Rarely, a blood vessel in the hand or wrist becomes blocked, restricting blood flow. This is called a blocked blood vessel.
Causes of Cold Fingers and Hands
There are many different conditions that cause vasoconstriction or occlusion of blood vessels. If you frequently experience cold fingers, consult a healthcare provider to rule out any medical cause. Medical causes of cold fingers include:
Diabetes is closely related to poor blood circulation. Cold fingers and toes may be one of the first signs. This may also manifest as numbness or tingling in the fingers, as well as slow-healing wounds. Uncontrolled diabetes can make circulation problems worse, so talk to your healthcare provider about developing a plan to control your blood sugar.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is an autoimmune disorder in which blood vessels spasm due to cold. This can lead to reduced blood flow to the hand, which can lead to cold fingers. The fingers of people with Raynaud’s often turn blue or white from the cold, and turn bright red when they rewarm.
Raynaud’s phenomenon can occur alone and is also closely linked to other autoimmune diseases (where the immune system mistakenly attacks a person’s own tissues), including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Raynaud’s phenomenon?
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 helps support the formation of red blood cells (which carry oxygen throughout the body) and healthy nerves. People with a B12 deficiency experience cold, tingling, or numbness in their hands.
Vitamin B12 is most commonly found in animal sources, such as milk, meat, and eggs, so vegetarians and vegans are at higher risk for dietary B12 deficiency. However, reduced vitamin B12 absorption can also lead to a deficiency.
How Vitamin B12 Deficiency Affects Your Body
Anemia is a condition in which the red blood cell count is too low or the red blood cells are not working properly to carry oxygen to the tissues. This can cause poor circulation and a cold feeling all over your body, but you may notice it in your fingertips.
Anemia can occur if you don’t get enough iron or B12. It is also common after blood loss or with an inflammatory disease.
Anemia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
The thyroid is a gland in the neck that produces hormones (chemical messengers). When it is not active, you may feel cold. This may include icy fingers. This happens because your body doesn’t have enough thyroid hormones to regulate metabolism, so your cells produce less energy and therefore release less heat.
Overview of Thyroid Disorders
When you’re stressed, your body releases adrenaline, a hormone also known as epinephrine. It has many effects on the body, including causing the blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to cold fingers.
Any condition that affects blood flow and metabolism can cause cold fingers. These may include:
- autoimmune diseases, including arthritis and lupus
- low blood pressure or low blood pressure
- drug side effects
How to warm up
To get your hands warm again, you should work with your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause of cold fingers. Treating the underlying medical condition—whether it’s diabetes, autoimmune disease, or stress—will help you reduce bouts of cold fingers.
You can also make lifestyle adjustments, such as wearing gloves more often or holding a warm cup. If you feel numb, be careful because you don’t want to burn yourself while heating.
Cold fingers are common, but if your hands don’t warm up easily, you may be dealing with a health issue. Cold fingers are often associated with circulation problems. These can have a range of causes, from diabetes to autoimmune diseases.
Consult your healthcare provider if your fingers are often cold, especially if accompanied by pain or color changes.
Cold fingers may seem like a small problem, but you shouldn’t ignore it. Constantly cold fingers can be a sign of a medical condition that causes poor circulation. Talk to your healthcare provider about your cold fingers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do diabetics have cold fingers?
Diabetes often causes circulation problems because poor control of glucose (blood sugar) can cause arteries to narrow. Consult your healthcare provider if you have diabetes and have cold fingers.
When do you need to see a doctor for cold fingers?
If you have persistent coldness in your fingers that is unexplained by prolonged exposure to low temperatures, consult your healthcare provider. It is especially important to see your healthcare provider if you have color changes, pain, numbness, or tingling.
Which vitamins help with cold hands and fingers?
A lack of iron or B12 can cause cold fingers. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking these supplements to make sure they address the underlying cause and that you are taking the appropriate amount.