Hands (and feet) can become cold to the touch when they fail to receive an adequate supply of oxygenated blood. While sometimes cold hands may be the body’s natural response to cold temperatures, other times it can be a symptom of underlying health issues or a side effect of medications. Cold hands, in general, might not be cause for concern. Often, having cold hands is just the body’s natural response to regulating body temperature. However, if patients consistently have cold hands– especially accompanied by a color change– it could be a warning sign. Other signs and symptoms patients should look for and bring to their doctor’s awareness are:
- Cold feet and/or toes
- Changes to the color of the skin, most often blue or white skin
- Numbness or tingling
- Tightened skin
- Open sores and/or blisters
Common Conditions that can Cause Cold Hands
Medications may not be entirely to blame. Some mental health conditions have cold hands as a common symptoms. PTSD can come with some unexpected physical symptoms. Cortisol is a vital element in our bodies that converts the proteins we consume into usable energy. It’s also helpful for balancing insulin and maintaining normal sugar levels, regulating our immune systems and regulating blood pressure. Patients with PTSD almost always have altered cortisol levels– whether it be too low or too high. Prolonged exposure to extreme high or low levels of the cortisol hormones can cause unexpected issues. Patients with PTSD experience fight, flight or freeze the majority of the time. During this period, blood flow is redirected away from the extremities and towards the larger organs and the torso area, areas necessary for survival. This redirection may result in poor blood flow to the hands, causing them to feel cold. People suffering from depression, anxiety, or both also experience the fight or flight response and may experience cold hands as a result.
Medications that can Cause Cold Hands
The most common group of medications than can cause cold hands are the older antidepressants, including tricyclics, tetracyclics and MAOIs. Brand names to be aware of include:
- And more
Lithium, most often used in the treatment of bipolar disorder, has also been proven to cause painful, cold fingers and toes. Patients should consult with their doctor about any side effects that may encounter. While cold hands can mean nothing, it’s important for patients to consult with their doctor about any side effects or symptoms they may be experiencing– especially if it’s getting in the way of life.
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