Doctor's Notes on Cold Hands and Feet
If your feet and hands feel cold, they are signs and symptoms of underlying problems. The underlying problems usually cause somewhat different signs and symptoms. Frostbite and frostnip, while developing, the extremities may tingle, start losing feeling and/or feel like a block of wood. Hands and feet become white, hard and/or waxy with some showing a whitish-purple or yellowish hue and eventually have no feeling. During the warming process, the hands and feet are often painful, swollen and have blister development; severe cold injury may cause some areas (fingers, toes) to turn a black color resulting in tissue loss and/or extremity loss.
Immersion (cold water) injury signs and symptoms cause extremities first to be red, then turn pale in swollen; some people may have blisters, skin breakdown or even skin liquefaction. Perino is a red or bluish, itching and burning rash that can develop after long exposures to cold and wetness without freezing. Other signs and symptoms may occur with diseases such as white to blue to red colored fingertips (Raynaud’s disease), deep-blue fingertips (Cryoglobulin production) and cold urticaria that produce hives or raised red bumps when the person is exposed to cold temperatures.
Causes of cold feet and hands are caused by damage or loss of nerves and blood vessels due to exposure to cold temperatures. Underlying causes include frostbite, frostnip, Perino, Raynaud’s disease, cryoglobulin production (proteins that, when cold, become solids or gels and block circulation) and allergic reaction to cold temperatures (cold urticaria).
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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.