Read below about cold fingers, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your cold fingers from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Cold Fingers Symptoms

Having "cold fingers" does not simply mean that your hands feel chilly. The fingers may feel virtually frozen, with sharp pins-and-needles pain. There may be swelling and color changes as well, and the numbness that goes along with the cold can make it very hard to feel anything with your fingertips.

This symptom is virtually always due to the veins and arteries tightening up and closing down. This constriction, or vasospasm, reduces circulation to the hands and fingers and makes them feel very cold and numb.

Characteristics of cold fingers:

  • Feeling as though the fingers have been dipped in ice water.
  • Numbness and tingling in the fingertips, also known as a pins-and-needles sensation.
  • Pain, throbbing, and swelling in the hands and fingers.
  • Joint pain in the hands, wrists, and fingers.
  • Change of color in the fingers, from reddened to very pale to blue-white.
  • Sore, broken skin at the fingertips.
  • Weak or absent pulses at the elbows, wrists, and fingers.

Who is most often affected by cold fingers symptoms?

  • Women under the age of 30.
  • Anyone with a family history of similar circulatory conditions.
  • Anyone with a history of migraine headaches.

When are cold fingers symptoms most likely to occur?

  • When surrounded by cold air, either indoors or outdoors. Even a cool draft, especially on the hands, may bring it about.
  • During tense, stressful situations.
  • During emotional upset.

Are cold fingers serious?

  • Occasionally experiencing cold and mildly discolored fingers is probably not serious, as long as the fingers warm up and feel normal quickly as soon as you are out of the cold.
  • Fingers that are often painfully cold can certainly interfere with one's ability to work and with quality of life in general.
  • If untreated, very poor circulation can lead to tissue damage, tissue death, and gangrene.

Cold Fingers Causes Overview

An autoimmune disease of some type:

  • An autoimmune disease is one in which the body's defenses turn against itself. The nerves, cartilage, skin, joints, or other organs can be attacked as though they were invaders, causing illness and damage.
  • Some autoimmune diseases cause inflammation of the veins and arteries. This inflammation interferes with circulation and causes long-term damage.
  • Raynaud's Syndrome causes cold fingers when the arteries to the extremities (including feet) spasm and reduce blood flow. Skin color changes are common.

Other illnesses:

  • Any number of other illnesses can affect the circulation, especially those involving metabolic disturbances or gradual organ failure.
  • Tumors, cysts, and other growths in the arms, hands, and wrists can block the circulation and cause pain, numbness, and the sensation of cold in the fingers.

Trauma:

  • An injury that has damaged the veins and arteries in the hand.
  • A long history of using power tools that cause heavy vibration to the hands, since this can be damaging and disruptive to circulation in the hands, wrists, and fingers.

Rare and unusual causes:

  • Severe emotional upset and/or very stressful situations.
  • The condition of painful cold fingers may be idiopathic, which simply means that it happens to you for no known reason.

5 Potential Cold Fingers Causes

  1. 1.Raynaud Phenomenon

    Primary Raynaud phenomenon is a disorder of the blood vessels, usually in the fingers and toes, which causes the blood vessels to narrow when feeling cold or stressed. When this happens, blood can't get to the surface of the skin and the affected areas turn white and blue.

    This condition is considered irreversible, but it should not prevent you from living a healthy life.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    distal numbness, cold toe, cold fingers, spontaneous toe pain, spontaneous finger pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Severe Frostbite of the Upper Limbs

    Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports. It is also more likely in those who are intoxicated or have a mental disorder.

    It takes 1-3 months to assess the damage, at which time, surgery might be needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, hand pain, swollen finger, hand redness, cold hands
    Symptoms that always occur with severe frostbite of the upper limbs:
    cold fingers
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

    Cold Fingers Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having cold fingers.

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  3. 3.Frostnip of the Upper Limbs

    Frostnip is damage of the outermost layers of the skin caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports.

    As long as you are able to get to a place to re-warm, the damage should be reversible.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, hand pain, hand redness, cold hands, cold fingers
    Symptoms that always occur with frostnip of the upper limbs:
    cold fingers
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  4. 4.Mild Frostbite of the Upper Limbs

    Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports. It is also more likely in those who are intoxicated or have a mental disorder.

    It takes 1-3 months to assess the damage, at which time, surgery might be needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, hand pain, hand redness, cold hands, cold fingers
    Symptoms that always occur with mild frostbite of the upper limbs:
    cold fingers
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  5. 5.Iron Deficiency Anemia

    Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells, which deliver oxygen. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body does not have enough iron. Iron helps make red blood cells.

    Resolves with treatment

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, heavy menstrual flow
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Cold Fingers Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate cold fingers treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • You cannot detect a pulse in your hands or fingers, the hand is very numb and looks very white, and it feels cold to someone else's touch.
  • The fingers begin to show open sores, especially if the sores appear blackened.

Schedule an appointment for:

  • Treatment of the cold fingers, as well as treatment of any underlying illness that may be causing the condition.
  • Discussion of getting physical therapy to improve circulation and help ease the symptoms.
  • Discussion of your medications. If any of them tend to cause constriction of the veins and arteries, your medical provider may be able to substitute a different one.
  • Discussion of counseling for help with stress management.
  • Discussion of smoking cessation, because cigarette smoking causes constriction of the veins and arteries.

Cold fingers remedies that you can try at home:

  • Stop smoking. Don't hesitate to ask your medical provider for help with this if you need it.
  • Keep your body warm. If your core temperature drops, blood will be withdrawn first from the hands and feet and sent to vital internal organs such as the heart and lungs in order to keep them functioning.
  • Wear fingerless gloves when indoors. They will still help keep the fingers warm, since the rest of the hand is warm, while allowing you to type or do other work.
  • Try not to touch cold water, ice cubes, drinking glasses, or anything else that's cold.
  • Look into comfort devices such as heated gloves.
  • Make improvements in diet, sleep, and exercise, because this will help with overall health, circulation, and tolerance of stress.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Cold Fingers

  • Q.Do you currently smoke?
  • Q.Were you recently exposed to the freezing cold (under 32F or 0C)?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Stress can cause changes in your body. Are you under a lot of stress?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our cold fingers symptom checker to find out more.

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Cold Fingers Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced cold fingers have also experienced:

    • 5% Hand Numbness
    • 4% Cold Toe
    • 3% Cold Feet
  • People who have experienced cold fingers were most often matched with:

    • 43% Raynaud Phenomenon
    • 1% Frostnip of the Upper Limbs
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

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