If your hands often feel icy, sluggish circulation may be the cause. But what’s slowing down your blood flow?
Cold and numbness in your extremities plus pale skin can be signs of a sluggish circulation. There are a number of underlying reasons for this so knowing what could be causing your cold hands is the first step to feeling warmer.
Cold hands and feet may be caused by anaemia, which develops when you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to all the body’s tissues. Heavy menstrual bleeding and a diet low in iron and vitamin B12, needed to make red blood cells, can be common causes.1
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An underactive thyroid
If your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough of the thyroid hormone, thyroxin, you can become very sensitive to the cold.2
If you suspect you may be suffering from an underactive thyroid, you can consult your GP for a confirmatory blood test’
You might associate hot flushes with helter-skelter hormones, but chilly hands and feet can be a symptom of perimenopause for some. It’s all down to the effects of decreasing oestrogen, which triggers a narrowing of your fingers’ blood vessels.4
Your body shape
It’s healthy to be slim, but without the insulation of fat, you may be more likely to have cold fingers. Tall as well? You have a larger body surface area from which to lose heat.5
Got a desk job? Don’t move much during the day? A sedentary lifestyle can be a cause of sluggish circulation because you’re not moving enough to get the blood pumping around to your extremities, like hands and feet.6
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Stress and anxiety
When you’re under stress, the hormone adrenaline is pumped into the bloodstream, which diverts blood away from your fingers and toes to the muscles: ready for ‘fight or flight’. This causes blood vessels in outer areas of the body to constrict – making your hands feel cold.7,8
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In this common condition, the blood vessels in the hands and feet overreact to cold and go into spasm, temporarily restricting blood supply. Your toes and fingers may also go numb.9
Using a computer mouse
It’s not just your imagination. A 2015 study by Latvia’s Riga Stradins University confirmed the phenomenon of ‘mouse hand’ – when your hand’s temperature drops after an hour of using a computer mouse. The movements are thought to compress the base blood vessels in the wrist, and are actually worse if you use a padded wrist support.10
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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1. Mayo Clinic. Anemia. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20351360
2. NHS Choices. Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/underactive-thyroid-hypothyroidism/symptoms/
3. Thyroid UK. Hypothyroidism. Available from:
4. The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research. Perimenopause and Thyroid Problems – common and confusing. Available from: http://www.cemcor.ubc.ca/ask/perimenopause-and-thyroid-problems-common-and-confusing
5. Mozaffarieh M, et al. Thermal discomfort with cold extremities in relation to age, gender, and body mass index in a random sample of a Swiss urban population. Available from:
6. Medical News Today. Causes and remedies for cold feet. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320327.php
7. As above
8. You and your Hormones. Adrenaline. Available from: http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/adrenaline/
9. Mayo Clinic. Raynaud’s disease. Available from:
10. Reste J, et al. Wrist Hypothermia Related to Continuous Work with a Computer Mouse: A Digital Infrared Imaging Pilot Study. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4555279/