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Feeling cold hands and feet is a relatively common problem that is considered completely normal when it happens during the coldest days of winter, when the outside temperature is very low.
However, when this symptom is very common or occurs even when it is not cold, it can also be a sign of more serious problems, especially diabetes, poor circulation, hypothyroidism or even heart disease.
If you notice that your hands or feet are cold very often or if this happens even in hot environments, it is important to go to the general practitioner to identify the cause and start the most appropriate treatment.
The most common causes are:
1. Cold temperature
Hands and feet may get cold when the outside temperature is lower than usual. When this happens, the body responds by constricting blood vessels, which causes less blood flow to the hands, resulting in a decrease in temperature and pallor.
Cold hands and feet occur mainly in children, the elderly or people who have less muscle mass.
What to do: it is recommended to wear warmer clothes, such as coats, gloves and socks, so that the temperature difference is not so great and, therefore,, it is possible to keep the feet and hands at a normal temperature. Drinking hot drinks, moving your body, soaking your feet and hands in warm water, or using hot water bottles can also be solutions to warm your extremities and maintain your body temperature.
Stress causes a release of cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline in the blood, which increases the tightness in the blood vessels and causes a decrease in blood flow. This is due to increased pressure, which causes less blood to reach the hands and feet, causing the hands and feet to become cold.
What to do: Practicing physical exercise such as walking, swimming, cycling or dancing, helps to control stress. It is also important to perform some activity that gives pleasure or that clears the mind, such as yoga or meditation, as it helps to reduce stress and increase well-being. In more serious cases, it is important to consult a psychiatrist because it may be necessary to use medication, such as anxiolytics, which must be prescribed by the doctor. Here's what to do to manage stress.
Cigarette promotes the contraction of blood vessels and increases the accumulation of fatty plaques in the arteries, which makes it more difficult for blood to pass through and reach the extremities of the body such as hands and feet and, therefore, are more likely to get cold.
What to do: It is important to avoid smoking or give up smoking. Check out some strategies to quit smoking.
4. Poor circulation
Hands and feet can get cold if there is poor circulation, as poor circulation is a situation where it is difficult for blood to pass through the arteries or veins.
In addition to freezing hands and feet, other symptoms such as swelling, tingling sensation and drier skin on hands and feet may appear. See 10 causes of poor circulation and what you can do to combat it.
What to do: It is recommended to drink plenty of water to hydrate the body and release accumulated toxins, in addition to walking at least 30 minutes every day to stimulate blood circulation. If poor circulation causes a lot of discomfort, it is important to consult a doctor to start a more appropriate treatment, which may include the use of medication to improve circulation or diuretics.
Anemia is a disease that is characterized by a decrease in red blood cells in the blood, which are responsible for transporting oxygen, allowing it to reach all parts of the body. There are different types of anemia, but the most common symptoms are tiredness and weakness, headache and pale skin or conjunctival sac, a space that is on the inside of the lower eyelid, pale.
In severe cases of anemia, it is common to have symptoms such as cold hands and feet, since the transport of oxygen is not done in a normal way. Find out if it's anemia and what the symptoms are.
What to do: in case of symptoms of anemia, it is important to go to the general practitioner to assess the symptoms and have a blood test to assess the amount of red blood cells and hemoglobin. The treatment of anemia varies according to the type, but it is common to include the consumption of foods rich in iron, present, for example, in meat, viscera such as liver, eggs, vegetables such as spinach and cabbage, or legumes., such as chickpeas, beans and lentils.
Atherosclerosis is characterized by the accumulation of fatty plaques in the arteries that make the vessels tighter, making it difficult for blood to pass through. As blood is more difficult to pass through, it becomes more difficult to reach extremities such as hands and feet, causing them to become cold.
In addition to freezing hands and feet, atherosclerosis can cause increased blood pressure or tiredness and its main causes are high blood pressure, tobacco and high cholesterol.
What to do: It's important to see your GP regularly for blood tests and diagnose any he alth changes, such as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can be treated with medication prescribed by the doctor, such as statins, but it is also very important to have a he althy diet, which can be indicated by a nutritionist. Understand how atherosclerosis is treated.
7. High blood pressure
High blood pressure, or arterial hypertension, is characterized by an increase in blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg, which makes the blood more difficult to circulate. When this happens, the amount of blood that can reach the hands and feet decreases, and it is normal for the extremities to feel cold.
What to do: it is important to look for a general practitioner to assess blood pressure values, he alth history and adjust treatment. Treatment is usually with antihypertensive drugs prescribed by the doctor. In addition, it is recommended to have a he althy diet low in s alt, exercise, maintain a he althy weight, avoid stress, alcohol and not smoking. Know what to do when your blood pressure is high.
Hypothyroidism occurs when there is a lower or no production of thyroid hormones, which causes a reduction in metabolism, causing changes in the body such as a decrease in heart rate, which can be associated with cold hands and feet.
Other symptoms that may be associated with hypothyroidism are tiredness, difficulty tolerating the cold, problems with concentration or memory, or weight gain. See other symptoms of hypothyroidism and how to treat it.
What to do: treatment should be guided by an endocrinologist, but it is usually done with drugs that help control hormone production. Since hypothyroidism tends to be chronic, it may be lifelong medication.
9. Heart failure
Heart failure is a serious disease that is characterized by the inability of the heart to pump the blood the body needs, which means that the blood may not be able to provide enough nutrients and oxygen, especially in the extremities, leaving cold hands and feet.
Aside from freezing hands and feet, the most common symptoms of heart failure are tiredness, difficulty breathing, high heart rate, swelling in the legs or dizziness. Learn more about heart failure, symptoms and treatment.
What to do: if the symptoms of heart failure are present on a daily basis, it is important to consult the cardiologist to evaluate the symptoms and diagnose the disease through blood, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram or chest X-ray. Treatment usually includes the use of blood pressure lowering drugs such as lisinopril, heart drugs such as digoxin, or diuretic drugs such as furosemide. It is also recommended not to smoke, maintain a he althy diet and practice physical exercise, according to the doctor's recommendations.
Diabetes is a disease characterized by an increase in blood sugar levels, which can lead to narrowing of the arteries, making the passage of blood more complicated and making it difficult to reach the hands and feet, causing them to become ice cream.
Symptoms of diabetes vary depending on the type, but the most common are difficulty thinking, palpitations, paleness, urge to urinate too often, thirst and constant hunger or tiredness.
What to do: if there are symptoms of diabetes, it is important to consult a general practitioner to confirm the diagnosis and start the treatment that, depending on the type of diabetes, can be done with oral antidiabetic drugs or insulin. It is also recommended to maintain a he althy diet, not eating, for example, foods with sugar, which must be prescribed by the nutritionist. See what diabetics can eat and what they should avoid.
Can cold hands and feet be a sign of COVID?
No. Although changes have been reported in the fingers, especially the toes, due to COVID-19, there is no decrease in local temperature. On the contrary, it is possible that the region gets a little warmer due to local inflammation, in addition to having a change in the color of the fingers, which can turn red or purple.
This situation is known as "covid fingers", being more frequent in children and adolescents, and the appearance of blisters, dry skin, itching and intense pain may also be noticed.
When to go to the doctor
It is important to consult a doctor when, in addition to cold hands and feet, other symptoms appear, such as:
- Very white fingertips, known in some places as "cold";
- Purple fingernails, fingertips, or lips;
- Swelling of the legs and feet;
- Tingling sensation in the extremities of the body;
- Calves pain when walking;
- Feeling faint;
- Increased heart rate;
- Frequently tired.
It is important to pay attention to the symptoms so that the doctor's evaluation is carried out as soon as possible, in order to avoid possible worsening of the disease. After the doctor has evaluated your symptoms, depending on your age and personal history, some blood tests, an electrocardiogram or other tests may also be ordered to make a more complete assessment of the possible problem.
If there are people in the family with diseases such as heart failure, poor circulation, hypothyroidism or diabetes, it is important to inform the general practitioner, as they are more likely to arise.