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Cold Hands and Feet (cont.)

Cold Hands & Feet Causes

Humans are tropical animals. We are adapted to a warm climate. When exposed to cold, the body tries to stay warm. If the body is cooling off, circulation decreases in the arms, legs, ears, and nose so that the rest of the core body can stay warm. When temperatures are below freezing, ice may form in these areas with less circulation.

  • Nonfreezing cold injuries are also caused by cooling of the skin. In immersion injuries, the nerves and blood vessels are damaged after exposure to cold, wet conditions at or above freezing temperatures.
  • Pernio is caused by exposure to cold for a long period of time without freezing or by very wet conditions.
  • Raynaud's phenomenon is an abnormal narrowing of the blood vessels that constrict with cooling of the fingers or toes.
  • Cryoglobulins are proteins, which are normally dissolved in the blood, that become solids or gels when cold. Cryoglobulinemia is the condition associated with cryoglobulins in the blood, whereby cold exposure leads to bluish discoloration of the fingers or toes.
  • The formation of hives in response to cold exposure of the skin is called cold urticaria.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/14/2013

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