An old cliché says “cold hands, warm heart” but if your hands and fingers persistently feel cold, even when the weather isn’t, you may have issues with your vascular system. Chronic cold fingers may be the result of decreased blood flow to your hands.
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How your blood flows
Your body regulates blood flow from the heart to keep your fingers and hands warm. Blood travels away from the heart through the radial and ulnar arteries, moving down into your arm and each one of your fingertips. When blood flow is good, your hands appear pinkish in color and feel warm.
Interrupted or reduced blood flow to your hands makes them feel frequently cold. In some cases, your hands and fingers may also feel painful.
Causes of poor blood flow
The muscles that surround your ulnar and radial arteries constrict and relax to regulate blood flow to the hands, as well as other vital organs of your body. When you need more blood flowing to your brain, heart, and lungs, these muscles may temporarily restrict blood to your extremities, like your hands and feet.
When your muscles put pressure on your arteries for too long, blood flow is reduced, causing your fingers to turn cold. When blood flow is cut off for extended periods of time, your fingers take on a bluish tint, a condition known as cyanosis.
As muscles relax and blood flow returns to your hands and fingers, they may appear red and start to swell. You may also feel a tingling sensation throughout your fingers, or persistent pain that makes it difficult to move your fingers.
When this loss of blood flow occurs frequently, you can develop skin ulcers. You’re also at increased risk for necrosis, the death of tissue.
Other causes of poor blood flow to your hands and fingers include vaso-occlusion, a condition when the blood vessels in your wrist or hand are blocked by disease or internal pressure.
Indications of poor blood flow
In addition to frequently cold hands and changes in skin color, you may also notice that wounds on your hands or fingers are slow to heal.
If you lack proper blood flow, you may be especially sensitive to handling cold things and require gloves to touch cold items, such as frozen foods or cold surfaces.
Diagnosing a vascular condition
The experienced providers at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow offer comprehensive evaluation of your hand and fingers to determine if chronic coldness is due to poor circulation or another underlying medical condition.
In some cases, your provider can confirm a potential vascular issue after a review of your symptoms and medical history and a physical examination of your hands and fingers. They can often feel the structure of your blood vessels noninvasively throughout your arm and hand, or listen to your blood flow without further testing.
Treating poor blood circulation
When painful, cold hands start interfering with your ability to work or your quality of life, you should consider treatment. The goal of your custom treatment plan is to improve long-term circulation and restore full functionality of your hand and fingers.
Treatment options may include prescription medicines to relax blood vessels and improve circulation. If there’s a blockage in your arteries that restricts blood flow, your provider may recommend surgery.
To maximize the success of your treatment, it’s important to follow a healthy, low-fat diet and get daily exercise to keep blood flowing throughout your entire body.
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If you suspect you have a vascular issue and are tired of feeling cold all the time, schedule a consultation with the providers at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow online or by phone today.