Cold Hands Syndrome 

The University of Chicago Medicine offers a full range of services for the treatment of cold hands syndrome — a vascular disorder caused by decreased blood flow through the hands and fingertips. The Cold Hand Clinic is one of few programs in the nation providing specialized care from surgeons extensively trained in reconstructive surgery for all vascular disorders affecting hands and upper extremities.

In the Cold Hand Clinic, we use leading-edge techniques to optimize hand health and quality of life for patients with cold hand issues. Our doctors are always investigating the latest innovations in the surgical and nonsurgical treatment of cold hand diseases, because we are passionate about providing the best care possible for each patient.

What are the signs and symptoms of cold hands syndrome?

If you have cold hands syndrome, you will probably experience one or more of these common symptoms in your fingers and hands:

  • Pain (particularly in cold temperatures)
  • Swelling
  • Abnormal, extreme coldness (particularly when others in the same environment have warm hands)
  • Numbness/loss of sensitivity or tingling
  • Discoloration (white, blue or red)
  • Streaks of discoloration under the fingernails (splinter hemorrhages)
  • Ulcers or wounds that do not heal
  • Symptoms in the feet in addition to or instead of the hands

What causes cold hands syndrome?

Cold hands syndrome occurs as a result of blocked or constricted blood vessels, caused by a vascular disorder (a cold hand disease) or an injury, such as:

  • Blood clotting
  • Hand trauma, including occupational or recreational or sports injury (e.g., laceration wounds, fractures or penetrating injuries)
  • Diseases that cause narrowing of the blood vessels in your hand and fingers, such as arteriosclerosis
  • Raynaud's disease (primary Raynaud's)
  • Raynaud's phenomenon/syndrome (secondary Raynaud's), caused by autoimmune or connective tissue disease (e.g., lupus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome)
  • Tumors or vascular malformations that cause abnormal blood flow between veins and arteries
  • Frostbite

Hand Therapy for Cold Hands Syndrome

The hand therapy team is comprised of skilled occupational therapists, including certified hand therapists (CHT), with expertise in upper extremity rehabilitation. In the Cold Hand Clinic, hand therapists work collaboratively with physicians to provide the best possible care for vascular disorders of the hand.

The hand therapy team plays an instrumental role in maintaining and restoring hand functionality and providing post-surgical rehabilitation care. The team's primary focus is on preserving quality of life for patients who experience pain, weakness or other difficulties when trying to perform daily activities. By providing effective care and education, hand therapists help patients condition their hands to perform as many daily activities as possible.

Hand Surgery for Cold Hands Syndrome

Hand and wrist conditions or injuries can vary dramatically in their severity and in the impact they have on patients daily lives. At UChicago Medicine, our highly skilled surgeons are dedicated to finding a treatment strategy to best restore function and form to patients’ hands. We specialize in a broad scope of hand and wrist conditions, including congenital hand malformations, arthritis and rheumatologic disorders, nerve dysfunction and traumatic hand injuries. Our goal is to provide the best possible outcome for our patients and improve their overall quality of life.