Medical Reasons You Have Cold Fingers (2023)

In chilly weather, it’s normal to experience cold fingers. But if you frequently have cold fingers or hands, it could be a sign of a medical condition. If you also have changes to your skin color, numbness, pain, or tingling, you might also be experiencing Raynaud's phenomenon, a variety of conditions sometimes called poor circulation.

This article will discuss common causes of cold fingers. It will cover issues that include white fingertips, fingers swelling in cold weather, and poor circulation in the fingers. It will also discuss when to get help, and what vitamins might help with cold fingers.

Medical Reasons You Have Cold Fingers (1)

Are Cold Fingers Normal?

Feeling cold is a normal reaction when your body is exposed to the elements and lower temperatures. Most people get cold fingers after shoveling the driveway or skiing. To understand why it’s important to know a bit about circulation.

As blood circulates throughout your body, it brings nourishment and keeps your body warm. However, when the body is exposed to cold temperatures, blood vessels in the hands and feet constrict, or shrink.

That allows for more blood flow to the core and head, where your most important organs are. Unfortunately, it also means that your hands and feet have less blood flow. This can lead to cold fingers or toes. Normally, blood flow returns to normal once you’re inside and begin warming up.

When blood vessels in your fingers or toes constrict too much, relative ischemia (not enough blood getting to an area) can develop. This can be painful. When it occurs, it is called Raynaud's phenomenon.

Usually, this occurs with a change in temperature. For example, it may occur in the summer if you go from a 90-degree day into a 70-degree air-conditioned building.

Condition-Related Signs

There are signs that your cold fingers might be cause for concern. The following can indicate that your cold fingers are related to a medical condition, not just frigid weather:

  • Changes to color, including white, red, or blue on the fingertips
  • Cold hands even in mild weather
  • Hands that are difficult to get warm
  • Pain in addition to feeling cold
  • Needing to wear gloves when handling frozen foods
  • Cuts on the hands or fingers that are slow to heal

Poor Circulation in Fingers

In most cases, cold fingers are related to circulatory problems in the hands and fingers. Two ways in which poor circulation can cause cold fingers are:

  • Vasoconstriction: It’s normal for the body to constrict blood vessels in response to cold. However, if your body constricts blood flow too much or for too long, it leads to a condition called vasoconstriction, which causes abnormally cold fingers.
  • Vaso-occlusion: Rarely, a blood vessel in the hand or wrist can become blocked, limiting blood flow. This is known as vaso-occlusion.

Causes of Cold Fingers and Hands

There are many different conditions that can cause vasoconstriction or vaso-occlusion. If you’re experiencing frequent cold fingers, talk to a healthcare provider to rule out any medical causes. The medical causes of cold fingers include:


Diabetes is closely linked to poor circulation. Cold fingers and toes can be one of the first signs. This might also present as numb or tingling fingers, and wounds that are slow to heal. Circulation issues get worse with uncontrolled diabetes, so talk with your healthcare provider about creating a plan to manage your blood sugar.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon is an autoimmune condition in which the blood vessels spasm in reaction to cold. This causes reduced blood flow to the hands, leading to cold fingers. People with Raynaud’s phenomenon often have fingers that turn blue or white in response to cold, and bright red when they rewarm.

Raynaud’s phenomenon can occur on its own and is also closely linked with other autoimmune conditions (in which the immune system mistakenly attacks a person's own tissues) including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

What Is Raynaud's Phenomenon?

(Video) What’s Causing My Cold Hands and Feet? | Ask the Doctor

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 helps support the formation of red blood cells (which carry oxygen throughout the body), and healthy nerves. People who are deficient in B12 can experience coldness, tingling, or numbness in their hands.

Vitamin B12 is most commonly found in animal sources like milk, meat, and eggs, so vegetarians and vegans are at higher risk for B12 deficiency due to diet. But a deficiency may also be caused by conditions that decrease the absorption of B12.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Symptoms, Causes, Risks


Anemia is a condition in which your red blood cell count is too low or your red blood cells do not function properly to carry oxygen to your tissues. This leads to poor circulation and feeling cold throughout the body, but you might notice it the most in your fingertips.

Anemia can develop if you don’t get enough iron or B12. It’s also common after blood loss, or if you have an inflammatory disease.

An Overview of Anemia

Thyroid Disease

The thyroid is a gland in your neck that produces hormones (chemical messengers). When it is underactive, you might feel cold. This can include cold fingers. This happens because your body doesn’t have enough of the thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism, so your cells are generating less energy, and therefore putting off less heat.

Thyroid Disease Overview


When you’re stressed your body releases adrenaline, a hormone also known as epinephrine. It causes many effects in the body, including prompting blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to cold fingers.

Other Conditions

Any conditions that affect your blood flow and metabolism can lead to cold fingers. These might include:

  • Autoimmune disorders, including arthritis and lupus
  • Low blood pressure, or hypotension
  • Medication side effects

How to Warm Up

In order to get your hands warm again, you should work with your healthcare provider to identify the root cause of your cold fingers. Treating the underlying condition—whether it’s diabetes, an autoimmune disorder, or stress—will help you have fewer episodes of cold fingers.

You can also make lifestyle adjustments, like wearing gloves more frequently or holding a warm mug. Be careful if you’re experiencing numbness since you don’t want to burn yourself while trying to get warm.


Cold fingers are common, but if your hands don’t warm up easily, you might be dealing with a medical condition. Cold fingers are usually linked to circulation problems. Those can have an array of causes, from diabetes to autoimmune disease.

If you have constantly cold fingers, especially if they’re accompanied by pain or color changes, talk with your healthcare provider.

(Video) Dangerous Health Signs Of Having Cold Hands And Feet

A Word From Verywell

Cold fingers might seem like a minor issue, but you shouldn’t brush it off. Consistently cold fingers can be a sign of medical conditions that lead to poor circulation. Talk to your healthcare provider about your cold fingers.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do people with diabetes have cold fingers?

    Diabetes often leads to problems with circulation, since poor glucose (blood sugar) control can lead to the narrowing of the arteries. If you have diabetes and experience cold fingers, talk with your healthcare provider.

  • When would you need to see a doctor for cold fingers?

    If you have consistent cold fingers that aren’t explained by long periods in cold temperatures, talk with your healthcare provider. It’s especially important to see your healthcare provider if you have color changes, pain, numbness, or tingling.

  • Which vitamins help with cold hands and fingers?

    Being deficient in iron or B12 can lead to cold fingers. Talk with your healthcare provider before taking these supplements to ensure they will address the underlying cause and you are taking an appropriate amount.

    (Video) What is the REAL Cause of Cold Feet – 6 Possible Causes – Dr.Berg

6 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Northwestern Medicine. Why do my fingers feel hard in the cold?

  2. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Cold hands.

  3. UCLA Health. How to improve blood circulation if you have type 2 diabetes.

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. What is Raynaud's phenomenon?

  5. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin B12.

  6. 5 symptoms of an iron deficiency.

Medical Reasons You Have Cold Fingers (2)

(Video) Cold Hands And Feet - Should You Worry?

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.

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(Video) 5 Reasons for Cold Intolerance – Nutritional Deficiencies & Feeling Cold – Dr.Berg

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What medical condition causes cold hands? ›

Raynaud's (ray-NOSE) disease causes some areas of the body — such as fingers and toes — to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperatures or stress. In Raynaud's disease, smaller arteries that supply blood to the skin narrow. This limits blood flow to affected areas, which is called vasospasm.

What are cold fingers a symptom of? ›

Usually, having cold hands is just one of the ways the body tries to control its temperature and shouldn't be cause for concern. However, persistently cold hands — particularly with skin color changes — could be a warning sign of nerve damage, blood flow problems, or tissue damage in the hands or fingers.

What does cold hands mean medically? ›

Cold hands may be caused by simply being in a cold room or other chilly environment. Cold hands are often a sign that your body is trying to maintain its regular body temperature. Always having cold hands, however, could mean there's a problem with your blood flow or the blood vessels in your hands.

What deficiency causes cold fingers and toes? ›

A vitamin B-12 deficiency can give you neurological symptoms including the feeling of cold hands and feet, numbness, or tingling. Vitamin B-12 is found naturally in meat and dairy products, and is important for maintaining healthy red blood cells.

Does cold hands mean heart problems? ›

People with heart failure may find that they often feel cold in their arms, hands, feet, and legs (the extremities). This happens because the body is circulating most of the available blood to the brain and other vital organs to compensate for the failing heart's inability to pump enough blood to the entire body.

Does high blood pressure cause cold hands? ›

It is concluded that cold hands and feet are common among hypertensive patients and may be aggravated by treatment with not only beta-blockers but also diuretics.

Why is my body hot but my fingers are cold? ›

If your fingers are getting cold when the temperature is normal, there could be an underlying cause. Cold fingers could be an indication of several problems, including Raynaud's syndrome, hypothyroidism, vitamin deficiencies, anemia, arterial disease, or even an autoimmune condition.

Does neuropathy cause cold fingers? ›

Nerve Damage / Peripheral Neuropathy

People with peripheral neuropathy often have problems sensing temperature in their extremities, and may experience cold hands and feet as a result. Nerve damage caused by peripheral neuropathy may be treated using medications and physical therapy.

Does low blood pressure cause cold fingers? ›

Some symptoms occur when the body tries to increase blood pressure that is low. For example, when arterioles constrict, blood flow to the skin, feet, and hands decreases. These areas may become cold and turn blue.

Do cold hands mean poor circulation? ›

Cold hands usually mean that not enough blood is going to your hands. Your body protects vital organs like your heart, brain, and lungs by making more blood flow to them and away from your hands. If your hands get cold often—or turn red, purple, blue, and start to feel numb—it may be a sign of poor circulation.

Does cold hands mean diabetes? ›

Diabetic neuropathy — cold or numb hands or feet — is a common sign of poor circulation in diabetes. However, according to United Kingdom-based Global Diabetes Community, you should alert your doctor if you experience these symptoms, as well: Pain when walking, particularly in calves, thighs, and buttocks.

What vitamin deficiency causes you to feel cold? ›

Lack of vitamin B12 and iron deficiency can cause anemia and lead you to feel cold.

What autoimmune diseases cause cold hands and feet? ›

The diseases most often linked with Raynaud's are autoimmune or connective tissue diseases such as:
  • Lupus (systemic lupus erythematous)
  • Scleroderma.
  • CREST syndrome (a form of scleroderma)
  • Buerger disease.
  • Sjögren syndrome.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Occlusive vascular disease, such as atherosclerosis.
  • Polymyositis.

Does lack of magnesium cause cold hands? ›

A magnesium deficiency can cause your muscles to tense up which, in turn, causes the diameter of your arteries to decrease, thus decreasing blood flow, resulting in cold hands and feet. Increasing your magnesium intake can help the blood vessels dilate, allowing blood to flow to the fingers and toes.

How can I restore the circulation in my fingers? ›

If you have symptoms, try running your hands under warm water or swinging your arms like a windmill to get your circulation going. Avoid smoking, which can cause your blood vessels to clamp down more.

Why are my hands always cold but my body is warm? ›

People who have anemia, diabetes, lupus, scleroderma, thyroid disease, poor circulation or nervous system disorders may be more susceptible to having cold hands. And for many otherwise healthy people, it simply represents their body's natural response to a cold environment, and likely isn't a cause for concern.

Why are my hands cold but my body is warm? ›

As the arteries narrow, blood flow decreases, especially in the parts of the body farthest from the heart. With less than normal blood flow, hands and feet can start to feel cold.


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