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"What causes extremeties to get very cold?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat causes extremeties to get very cold?

Question

My hands and feet are liable to get extremely cold if I let them, and then they're almost impossible to warm up. Why does this happen to me? It's quite painful. Is there something wrong with my circulation? Is their anything I can do to improve it?

Answer

There is a vast differential diagnosis for cold and painful extremities that span the spectrum from benign to more serious. Your primary care physician will be able to best evaluate the underlying cause based on your specific medical history and presenting symptoms. It is important to remember that everyone is different and as such, some people may have decreased circulation to their extremities than others. It is possible that your threshold for feeling cold may be lower than others as well. In these cases being mindful about keeping yourself warm is the best way to stay comfortable and avoid the pain you feel in cold situations. Another common cause of cold extremities is Raynaud's disease, which is a relatively benign condition as well. Although doctors are not sure exactly what causes Raynaud's disease, most people find it be more of a nuisance than a disability. There are more concerning causes for painful cold extremities including peripheral vascular disease, ischemia, and emboli causing occlusion of large arteries in the arms or legs. The entire differential is beyond the scope of this discussion, and your primary care physician will be best able to assess the potential cause for these complaints and what further actions may be necessary.

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