Keep warm. Anywhere.

Cold hands and feet are a common occurrence, usually blamed on the cold weather, not dressing warmly enough or poor circulation. In most cases, a pair of mittens and some heavy socks will make you feel toasty again.

But at some point cold hands are a sign of more serious problems.? Raynaud's syndrome is a surprisingly common condition that underlies many cases of cold hands and feet.

What is Raynaud's syndrome?
Raynaud's syndrome is a condition where people develop spasms in the blood vessels going to the hands or feet. These spasms are most often brought about by exposure to cold temperatures, but they can also be caused by a stressful situation.

Raynaud's is fairly common, with some estimates of as many as 5 percent of the population and up to 10 percent of women having Raynaud's.

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What are the symptoms of Raynaud's?
The hands or feet turn sequentially different colors, typically first turning a whitish color, and then possibly very bluish and then finally a very reddish phase and are a result of changes in blood flow to the extremities with the white color caused by a lack of blood, the blue to red color by a rush of blood to the hands.

Should you be worried about Raynaud's syndrome if you often get cold hands?
Raynaud's symptoms can fall within a range of severity. There are some people who are cold-sensitive, and their hands may turn a little white or feel a little bit cold in the cold weather which is a normal body response. But with Raynaud's, it's a more noticable change, where they can actually see the colors change.

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Why does Raynaud's cause cold hands and feet?
Raynaud's is based upon a normal body response. If you are exposed to cold, your body normally responds by trying to maintain core body temperature and prevent heat loss through the hands and feet. So, it clamps down on the blood vessels in the hands and feet to redirect blood go to the vital organs to keep your core body warm. But for people with Raynaud's, this normal response is exaggerated. For example, frostbite wouldn't be considered Raynaud's, but it is caused by the same  body reactions. For people with Raynaud's, something like frostbite might happen much more easily or be more extreme when it happens.

What causes Raynaud's?
Some people are predisposed to Raynaud's due to genetics, but Raynaud's-like symptoms are usually caused by some other disease. There are some diseases that cause a higher rate and more severe form of Raynaud's.

For example, Raynaud's occurs in almost everybody suffering from the chronic connective tissue disease, scleroderma. So, while some people just have Raynaud's syndrome alone with mild symptoms when they get very cold, For people suffering from scleroderma, the Raynaud's symptoms can be so severe that they develop injury to the tips of their fingers from lack of blood flow. It becomes such a profound lack of blood supply that they actually can get ulcerations on the fingertips or even detachment of the fingers. In these patients with scleroderma and Raynaud's, the changes to the blood vessels can be seen; there's a thickening of the blood vessels which causes less room for the blood to flow.

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How is Raynaud's diagnosed?
The only way to diagnose Raynaud's is by giving your physician a good history of the symptoms  and describing to them what happens to your hands. If you said to your physician that on cold exposure or during a stressful situation, my hands turn white and maybe little bluish," it's really just that description that would allow the doctor to diagnose Raynaud's.

How is the severity of the symptoms determined?
The severity would be determined by how much it discomfort it causes you and how much it interferes with your daily life – and that depends upon your unique situation and daily activities.

I would say it's significant if people are developing attacks where the white phase lasts more than 15 minutes. That really raises a flag that it might be serious Raynaud's, because during that white phase the fingers are not getting blood. That person is probably at higher risk for actually having injury to the tissues in their fingers or feet (but more often fingers) from the Raynaud's. This prolonged white phase signals more serious Raynaud's, and also would make me delve more deeply into whether this might be Raynaud's in the context of a more serious autoimmune or connective tissue disease like scleroderma.

What other diseases are associated with Raynaud's phenomena?
It has been shown that  people with autoimmune diseases more commonly have Raynaud's than the general population. People suffering from Scleroderma are the most likely to experience from Raynaud’s. It is also prevalent with people suffering from Lupus.

Heated Gloves or Heated Glove Liners have been found to provide some relief from the cold by warming the hands externally.

Click here for more about heated glove liners...

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The Facts About Always Very Cold Hands