back to top

This Is Actually Why Your Hands And Feet Are Always Cold

Sock and mitten game = on point.

Posted on

Raise your (cold, frigid) hand if your fingers and toes are always freezing.

Paramount Pictures / Via

Same. BuzzFeed Life spoke with Dr. Albert Ahn, internist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, to find out why some people seem to be way more sensitive to temperature changes. So remember this the next time your hands are literal icicles.

Having cold hands and feet is actually a natural part of your body maintaining its internal temperature.

Disney / Via

When you're exposed to the cold, your body tries to maintain its internal temperature by constricting small blood vessels under the surface of the skin on your hands and feet, Ahn says. This reduces blood flow to your extremities and allows more blood to move deeper in the body, so your core stays warm. Cue freezing AF fingers and toes.

Some people are just more sensitive to it than others, but it's typically not something to worry about, says Ahn.

Contrary to everything you've heard, it's not usually an issue of poor circulation.

Although the constriction of blood vessels is a circulatory aspect, Ahn says that just having cold hands and feet isn't actually a circulation problem. "True circulation problems begin at the heart," Ahn says, like if you have a heart condition that makes it more difficult to pump blood to the body or plaque buildup in your blood vessels due to heart disease. The risk of this happening increases with age, but it's rare for people in their twenties and thirties to have cold extremities from cardiac-circulatory problems.


And it really doesn't have to do with being tall or lanky AF. / Via

No matter how far your hands or feet are away from your heart, they won't get cold simply because your limbs are freakishly long. Height has no affect on how well your heart circulates blood, says Ahn. That said, tall people who also have connective tissue disorders like Marfan's or Ehler-Danlos syndrome could be more likely to have cold and numbness in their hands and feet, says Ahn.

There's also Raynaud's Disease, which causes your fingers and toes to be freezing, numb, and to change color.

This is a condition marked by extreme sensitivity to episodes of cold and stress. "It triggers vasospasm, or sudden constriction of small blood vessels in your extremities," says Ahn. So your hands and feet will easily feel cold, numb, painful, and may even appear white or blueish. They'll go back to normal once you warm up again, and then back to ridiculous white and numb in the cold. There's also Secondary Raynaud's, which is caused by an underlying medical issue like lupus or Sjogren's syndrome.

Other health issues can lead to chilly hands and feet — like anemia, an underactive thyroid, diabetes, or nerve damage. / Via Cinemax

In most cases, cold fingers and toes are just the result of being more sensitive to temperature changes, but if it starts suddenly or seems abnormal, you might want to get it checked out — especially if you also experience any numbness, weakness, or pins and needles, says Ahn.

"It might feel minor or silly, but people shouldn't feel embarrassed about going to their doctor for cold hands and feet," says Ahn. It could be the first sign of a more serious condition.

The best treatment is stocking up on mittens, socks, and comfy shoes with wiggle room.

If your hands and feet get cold with the littlest temperature change, just make sure you're prepared with all the layers. You can also help your freezing fingers come back to life with warm (but NOT hot) water, says Ahn. And make sure you're wearing the right size shoes, since anything too tight can constrict blood flow and make you even colder.

But if your frigid extremities are caused by one of the underlying conditions we mentioned above, talk to your doctor about what you can do.