Do people accuse you of having ice-cold hands and feet all the time? Have you been jokingly called a vampire, but then wondered… Am I? Well, having cold peripheries is a common problem most women are plagued with. However, the ultimate and most exasperating question is—WHY? Why am I a human icicle, doctor? And most importantly, should I be worried?
You’ve probably already heard a plausible answer—maybe you just have bad circulation? And that isn’t entirely inaccurate. Blood flow is responsible for the chill that bedevils your digits. When you venture out on a particularly cold day, your body will have priorities. It will send greater warmth and blood to organs that are vital to your survival: heart, brain, and lungs. Other than seeming a bit classist, it’s a perfectly normal survival mechanism. However if during warm, balmy days your fingers continue to seem like mini-glaciers, then this could signify an underlying condition.
1. Raynaud’s Syndrome
A prevalent reason for cold extremities, this disorder causes your blood vessels in your as fingers, ears, nose, and toes, to narrow in response to emotional stress or cold. (1) During an attack, your fingers will appear white then turn blue, as very little blood reaches that region. Once the blood supply returns, your fingers shall appear red. You can also expect numbness, pain or tingling during an episode. Raynaud’s, most of the times, doesn’t have an identifiable cause. However, simple lifestyle changes like warmer clothing, using gloves and dodging emotional stressors is enough for management.
2. Autoimmune Diseases
In some cases, your Raynaud’s maybe a result of an underlying autoimmune disease. There’s Scleroderma, a condition that causes the scarring and hardening of connective tissue as well as skin; Lupuswhere our immune system begins to attack our very own tissues; Rheumatoid arthritis, where our immune system attacks our joints. The list goes on. If you’re suffering from secondary Raynaud’s, once you’ve correctly diagnosed the primary cause, your symptoms will improve. (2)
Our thyroid is fundamentally the thermostat of our bodies. Hence if it’s dysfunctional, you could very well expect frozen fingers. (3) Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid is underactive, producing symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, constipation and the perpetual sensation of being cold.
4. Circulation Problems
This is what most of the population believes cold fingers signify. Poor circulation is when oxygen and nutrient-rich blood, circulating throughout our body, decreases in supply. This may be due to clogged arteries (for example due to a high cholesterol diet), poor pumping of the heart (as seen in heart failure) or other reasons.
Anemia is a condition where your body has a low level of hemoglobin in the blood or just not enough red blood cells. (4) It leads to decreased oxygen-rich blood supply hence possibly producing cold hands. Anemia itself is most commonly a result of iron deficiency, but it can also be due to bleeding (via ulcers, heavy period flow, gastrointestinal bleeds), certain cancers and digestive ailments (Crohn’s or celiac disease).
6. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12, found in poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy, is essential for forming our red blood cells. If you aren’t getting enough B12 through your diet, it could lead to reduced RBC production hence subsequent anemia.
7. Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure could be a result of blood loss, endocrine disorders, certain medications or also, simple dehydration. When your blood pressure drops, the body prioritizes the flow to your vital organs, leaving your fingers chilled. You might also experience nausea, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion.
8. Anxiety & Stress
We’re already well aware that stress can wreck some parts of our body and our hands and feet are no exceptions. Victims of anxiety or chronic stress, perpetually go through ‘fight or flight’ mode, where their body is flooded with adrenaline. One of the effects of this hormone surge is a constriction of the blood vessels in our extremities resulting in (you guessed it) cold digits.
Certain meds constrict your blood vessels producing Raynaud’s as a side effect. (5) Watch out for beta-blockers, chemotherapy drugs, over-the-counter decongestants and migraine medications. Consult your doctor on whether your icy extremities could be a possible side-effect from your prescribed medication.
If there weren’t enough deterrents for you to give up smoking, well here’s another one: Cigarettes contain nicotine, which is not only infamous for building plaques to clog your arteries but also constrict your blood vessels, leaving you with bad circulation and icicle digits. (6)
If your cold hands and feet are getting in the way of your daily life, or simply bothering you, then stop stressing and go and consult your doctor. Visiting your doctor for something like this may seem ‘trivial’ to you, but if you read this article till the very end, it speaks volumes. You’re bothered. It’s time you stopped being.
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