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Causes of Cold Hands

What causes cold hands?

Although the cause of cold hands can be as simple as being in a cold environment or your body's natural response to maintain its normal temperature, if you have ongoing problems with cold hands, there could be a number of causes. The body adjusts to cold by altering circulation to maintain warmth for its vital organs. As a result, blood flow to the hands and feet diminishes, while blood flow to the body's core increases. Here are just a few causes of cold hands.

Buerger's disease

Buerger's disease is a peripheral vascular disorder also known as thromboangiitis obliterans. It affects small and medium-sized arteries and veins in the hands and feet. An inflammatory reaction occurs in the blood vessels, interfering with normal circulation. In addition to a cold sensation in the affected limbs, it may also make the skin bluish. If nerves are inflamed, pain may also occur. The disorder primarily affects men between the ages of 20 and 40 who smoke.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

This is a disorder in which the median nerve that serves the fingers becomes compressed in the wrist, causing hand pain, numbness, and a feeling of coldness.

Circulatory diseases

Any form of cardiovascular disease can interfere with circulation. When the peripheral circulation is diminished, it can result in a chronic sensation of coldness in the hands and feet.


Cyanosis is a bluish coloring of the skin caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood. Hands and feet also may be cold in the presence of cyanosis. It can be caused by respiratory and circulatory problems, and may be an initial symptom of congenital heart disease in infants.

Raynaud's phenomenon

This is a disorder in which tiny arteries in the fingers and toes go into spasm, interfering with blood flow. The result can be painfully cold fingers and toes, and pale or bluish skin color. It may occur independently of other conditions, in which case it is known as Raynaud's disease. In other instances, it occurs as a secondary effect of other medical problems such as certain types of arthritis, cardiovascular disease, or primary pulmonary hypertension.

Rheumatic diseases

Several rheumatic disorders place people at greater risk of Raynaud's phenomenon. These include systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma. The reason for this association is not entirely clear, but inflammatory changes in the blood vessels seem to be involved.


Smoking cigarettes damages the blood vessels and interferes with normal circulation. It is not uncommon for heavy smokers to experience cold hands and feet and more marked reactions to cold weather. Smoking also contributes to the development of atherosclerosis and other circulatory problems.