Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"I was in extreme cold last night and 12 hours later my left thumb is still numb. Is this normal?"

ZocdocAnswersI was in extreme cold last night and 12 hours later my left thumb is still numb. Is this normal?


so i was walking outside last night it was very cold about -37 Celsius i was very cold the rest of my limbs returned to normal after warming up, but my thumb on my left hand the inner side of it has remained numb. my hands where in my pocket so it was not directly exposed to the cold.


I am sorry to hear about your symptoms, and I can understand why they are troubling. You should arrange to see a primary care physician, as it is not possible to provide an accurate diagnosis without a full history and physical exam. When you body is exposed to extreme cold, the blood vessels in your arms and legs constrict. This allows more blood to flow to your vital organs, which helps ensure proper function and survival. Unfortunately, the constriction of these blood vessels prevents blood flow to your fingers and toes. If this is prolonged, it can lead to damage of your digits. This is what is known as frost bite. Frost bite damage occurs on a spectrum, with some people experiencing reversible damage. In severe cases, the damage is irreversible, and the portion of the extremity that was without blood flow starts to necrose (die) and can eventually mummify and fall off. That is at the extreme of possibilities. Based on your description, it sounds as if you have experienced some degree of frost bite on your thumb. I encourage you to see a primary care doctor to determine if this is the cause. Based on their findings, they can recommend appropriate follow-up.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.