Cold Hands

Most of the time, when your hands are cold, it’s just because the rest of you is, too. Your body naturally restricts blood flow to your hands to protect your organs when you’re in a cold environment. But if your hands feel cold all the time (even when you’re not in a cold place), it might be a sign something else is going on.


Ways to manage cold hands
There are a several ways to manage how often you have cold hands.

What does it mean to have cold hands?

Whether you just finished building a snowman or work in an office that feels like the air conditioning is set to arctic temperatures, it’s perfectly healthy to feel like your hands are chilly sometimes. It’s usually not a sign of anything other than you’ve been in a cold space or have touched something cold.

If your hands are cold all the time, even when you haven’t been in or near cold, it might be a symptom of an issue or health condition that affects blood flow to your hands.

Blood flows from your heart to your hands through the ulnar artery and radial artery in your forearm. The muscles around these arteries tighten (constrict) when you’re exposed to cold. Your body automatically moves blood to conserve heat and protect vital organs like your heart and lungs.

Sometimes blood vessels will constrict suddenly, even if they’re not cold. Healthcare providers call this a vasospasm. Vasospasms can make your hands feel cold even if you’re in a comfortable temperature. It’s rare, but frequent vasospasms can damage tissue in your hand and cause skin sores (ulcers).

See a provider if your hands feel cold all the time, or it feels like they take longer than they should to warm up.

Symptoms to watch out for

Usually, having cold hands isn’t anything to worry about. But you should visit a healthcare provider if you have cold hands along with other symptoms, including:

  • Ulcers.
  • Pain.
  • Tingling.
  • Changes in your skin (especially if it feels tighter or harder than usual or has changed color).
  • Frequently cold feet or toes.


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Possible Causes

What are the most common causes of cold hands?

The most common cause of cold hands is a safe, healthy reaction to temperature changes.

Health conditions that can cause cold hands as a symptom include:

  • Raynaud’s syndrome: Raynaud’s syndrome causes blood vessels in your fingers and toes to constrict suddenly. The skin on your hands and fingers also might change color and have blue, white or purple tint. When blood flow resumes, your hands might be discolored and feel hot.
  • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism happens when your thyroid doesn’t create and release enough thyroid hormone into your body. This makes your metabolism slow down, affecting your entire body. It can make you feel cold, even if you’re in a warm place.
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD): PAD is a buildup of fatty plaque in your arteries. The plaque can block or restrict blood flow to your hands and feet, which can make them feel cold. PAD can cause severe complications if it’s not treated.
  • Lupus: Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that causes swelling and inflammation throughout your body. It can affect your skin and blood, which can make you more sensitive to temperature changes. It may also be associated with Raynaud’s syndrome.
  • Scleroderma: Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder that can make the skin on your fingers and hands thicker than it should be. People with scleroderma often have Raynaud’s syndrome, too.

Care and Treatment

How are cold hands treated?

A healthcare provider will usually treat the cause of cold hands rather than the chilly feeling itself. They’ll suggest treatments based on what’s causing your hands to feel cold.

Your provider might suggest ways to increase blood flow to your hands, including:

  • Limiting how much time you spend in the cold (both indoors and outside).
  • Wearing gloves, mittens or other gear to keep your hands warm.
  • Managing stress and anxiety.
  • Avoiding tobacco products.
  • Limiting how much alcohol and caffeine you drink.
  • Following a skincare routine that protects your hands and fingers.

You might need prescription medications to manage a health condition that’s causing cold hands. Medications that manage high blood pressure (hypertension) can increase blood flow to your hands, including:

It’s rare, but some people with cold hands need surgery or nerve block injections to deactivate the nerves in their hands. Your healthcare provider or surgeon will tell you what to expect.

What can I do at home to treat cold hands?

It may sound obvious, but one of the best ways to treat cold hands at home is to reduce how much time you spend in the cold. Many causes of cold hands are triggered by sudden temperature changes.

This can be easier said than done when you need the air conditioning on during the summer or have to get food out of the freezer. But you might be able to prevent bouts of cold hands if you can avoid moving quickly from a warm place to a cold one, or if you can limit how much your hands are exposed to the cold.

Talk to your healthcare provider about what triggers your hands to feel cold, or if anything makes them feel colder than usual — especially if it also makes your hands hurt. Your provider will help you find ways to reduce how often you have cold hands.

What are possible complications of cold hands?

It’s rare for cold hands to cause complications. If a health condition that causes cold hands also damages tissue in your hands, you might develop ulcers that can permanently damage your hands, fingers and thumbs.

In the most extreme cases, untreated ulcers can develop gangrene, which may require a surgeon to amputate (surgically remove) your affected hand. Visit a healthcare provider as soon as you notice any new sores or wounds on your hands, especially if you have a health condition that affects blood flow to your hands.


When To Call the Doctor

When should I see a healthcare provider if I have cold hands?

Visit a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing cold hands frequently in ways that seem unusual (if your hands feel cold all the time, or if they feel cold even if you’re not exposed to the cold or cool air).

It’s perfectly natural to have cold hands, but if it’s happening often enough that you’re worried about it, you should talk to a provider.

Additional Common Questions

Can cold hands be a sign of heart disease or anemia?

Having cold hands isn’t usually a direct symptom of either heart disease or anemia. However, both conditions can affect how blood travels through your body (including to your hands), so it’s possible that they can affect the blood vessels in your hands.

Heart disease is a collection of issues that can affect your heart. When people think about heart disease, they often think of the most common type — coronary artery disease (CAD). However, you can have trouble with different parts of your heart, such as your heart muscle, valves or electrical system.

Anemia happens when you don’t have enough red blood cells or your red blood cells don’t work as they should. Your red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. Oxygen powers your cells and gives you energy. Without healthy red blood cells that do their job, your body doesn’t get the energy it needs to function properly.

Visit a healthcare provider right away if you have new symptoms like shortness of breath (dyspnea), fatigue or dizziness.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Having cold hands is almost always a sign that your body is cold and it’s time to warm up a little. But if your hands feel cold too often (especially when you’re not in a cold place), it might be a sign you should visit a healthcare provider. Conditions that affect the blood vessels in your hands and fingers can sometimes cause cold hands. Your provider will suggest treatments for whatever condition is causing your cold hands.

Don’t feel silly or ashamed about talking to a provider for any symptom, no matter what. You’re the best judge when something is “off” or unusual for you — especially if it’s affecting your body often enough for you to notice.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 07/13/2023.

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