Most people have experienced cold hands for one reason or the other. One of them is the hands get cold when there is reduced blood flow to the hands. Our bodies mainly regulate the blood flow from the heart, down the arm, to our fingertips to keep the hands warm. The hands get pink and warmer when more blood reaches them; however, when there’s less blood flow, they get colder and feel pain.
Poor circulation occurs due to the circulatory system’s inability to pump blood to the whole body effectively, reducing blood flow, oxygen, and nutrient delivery to affected areas. Poor circulation often affects a person’s outermost limbs, like the hands and feet.
Causes Of Poor Circulation
The radial and ulnar arteries are the usual pathways for blood flow into our hands. Since cold hands are due to reduced blood circulation to the hand, other factors that contribute to it are:
- Vasoconstriction: There are muscles covering the major arteries of our body that automatically contract or expand to reduce or increase blood flow. Therefore, the body transfers more blood and warmth to the vital organs of your body (such as the heart, lungs, and brain), temporarily reducing the blood flow to your hands and feet.
Vasoconstriction can lead to cold hand diseases when these muscles exert prolonged pressure on the arteries, which reduces blood flow. Then, the fingers will turn blue color – a process known as cyanosis. However, the finger turns red, feels pain, and becomes warm due to an increased blood flow. Over time, the fingers regain their standard skin color and experience swelling and tingling.
If this loss of blood flow reoccurs, it can result in ulcers in the skin and tissue death.
- Vaso-occlusion: This occurs when one or more of the blood vessels in the hand or wrist get blocked.
- Diseases of blood vessels: Various diseases of blood vessels can result in vasoconstriction and vaso-occlusion. For example, in Raynaud’s Disease, there is an abnormal response in the hand when it feels cold.
The most common symptom of cold hands is skin that feels chilly when you touch it. Additional symptoms of cold hands are pain, redness, pale skin, blue-tinted skin, tingling or numbness, blisters, and swelling.
If you often experience poor circulation in your hands, a doctor will request symptoms and conduct a physical examination. They may examine your temperature and the condition of your hands and fingers, including any pain or numbness in the affected area.
The doctor will also perform blood tests, chest X-rays, electrocardiograms, and CT scans to know how the circulatory system is functioning and find certain underlying conditions. For instance, they may request a cold stimulation test to diagnose Raynaud’s disease.
How To Boost Circulation?
Caring for the heart and blood vessels may help individuals boost their circulation. To improve your heart health, consider taking a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, maintaining or achieving a moderate weight, stopping smoking, being updated about risk factors and signs of poor circulation, and managing stress.
When To Consult A Doctor
Symptoms of poor circulation in the hands are not permanent and are not often related to a health condition. For instance, cold temperatures may result in poor circulation symptoms, such as numb and pale fingers. Nevertheless, when these symptoms persist, it could indicate an underlying condition. An individual should consult a doctor if signs of poor circulation in the hands reoccur without a known cause.
Sudden symptoms that should be considered a medical emergency and require quick medical help are confusion, dizziness, chest pain, speech or cognitive impairment, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, and severe headache.
Cold hands can indicate poor circulation, which involves decreased blood flow to the hands, resulting in persistent coldness, pain, and discoloration. It can be caused by vasoconstriction, vaso-occlusion, and vascular diseases contribute. Individuals experiencing severe symptoms of cold hands should seek medical advice to reveal any underlying conditions.
Moreover, maintaining heart and vascular health via lifestyle changes, such as a balanced diet and regular exercise, can improve circulation. Nevertheless, sudden and severe symptoms like chest pain or loss of consciousness demand quick medical attention. Caring for your health and consulting a doctor will help you manage poor circulation and its potential causes.