What is Raynaud’s?
Constantly cold hands can be uncomfortable, but are they dangerous?
“Cold hands are a common complaint, and in most cases, very annoying, but not serious,” says Dr. Robert Martin, a family medicine physician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “In cold conditions, the body shunts blood away from the hands and feet to protect vital organs.”
One explanation for unusually cold hands could be what is known as Raynaud’s phenomenon. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Raynaud’s is a rare disorder marked by the narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Most often, Raynaud’s affects the fingers and toes.
“Raynaud’s phenomenon is an exaggerated response to cold conditions or emotional stress,” says Dr. Martin. “The cause of most cases is not known, although it can be associated with certain medical conditions.”
While Dr. Martin says we don’t why some people suffer from Raynaud’s and some do not, risk factors for the condition include:
- Being female
- Being young in age
- Having an affected first-degree relative
“Treatment strategies may involve keeping the hands warm with good gloves or hand warmers and keeping the core body warm by layering clothing and avoiding sudden changes in temperature,” says Dr. Martin. “It’s also important to avoid tobacco products and reduce stress.”
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