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Kerry, Nurse (RN)
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 4312
Experience:  35 years in Nursing: OB/GYN, Peds, Oncology, hospice, Ortho, Neuro, Addiction, Recovery, Geriatrics,
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Why do my fingers hurt when its cold?

Resolved Question:

When I have been out in the cold weather for a while, and my fingers feel very cold, I stop what I am doing and go inside. When I go into warm shelter and I begin to warm up my finger tips start to hurt. The pain brings tears to my eyes. Then the pain goes away and my fingers feel normal. This also happens to kids on my ski team. What is the medical reason for this? I would like to be able to explain this to myself and the kids.

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Male , Age: 42

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Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Health
Expert:  Kerry replied 10 years ago.

If you feel pain or numbness in her fingers, toes, nose, ears, or any other body part, check for frostnip or frostbite.

Frostnip is like a warning sign for frostbite, and occurs when cold temperatures damage the skin and blood vessels. Frostnip usually affects the face, feet or fingertips and causes numbess and may turn skin white or blue-white.

Frostbite is literally the freezing of the body — from the skin in! Frostbite can make skin feel waxy, frozen, and numb, and can cause blisters. In extreme cases, blood may stop flowing to the area and permanent damage can be done to the nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and even bones. Plus, once an area is frostbitten, it is more susceptible to frostbite in the future.

If you wear mittens rather than gloves, this allows the fingers to keep each other warm, so this would be less likely.

Sometimes you can get that tingling feeling or pain in your fingers or toes when they warm up after being in the cold for a period of time. Or, your fingers, nose or toes turn blue when they are cold or pressed upon. These are warning signs that you could have Raynaud’s.

Click here to read more.

Hope that helps,

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
What specifically causes the pain when hands are warming up after beeing very cold. The happens to myself and children on my ski team. What is the physics behind this pain?
Expert:  Kerry replied 10 years ago.

The pain is caused by vasoconstriction. The blood vessels constrict when cold, and this causes the pain. It is much like a vascular headache, and it would explain what kids call 'brain freeze' headache when they eat ice cream too fast.

Hope that helps,

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
OK that makes sense. But why does it happen when you are warming up? The reasons for my questions are I want to give the kids a handout that explains why there hands hurt when they come back into the lodge after skiing a few runs when it is real cold.
Expert:  Kerry replied 10 years ago.

That's when they are thawing. So the feeling is coming back and the pain can be felt. Essentially when they freeze they get numb. This isn't necessarily a good thing, and over time can damage the capillaries in the fingers. The subsequent damage can be painful too.

Make sense?

You are a cool teacher to be researching this for them.

I will see if I can find a better explanation for you.

Please see the above link for another explanation.


Customer: replied 10 years ago.
I appreciate your feedback, I am having trouble translating what you have presented such that I can pass it on.

local vasoconstriction (constriction of blood vessels) reduces perfusion (blood circulation) and thus warmth to the patient’s hands and feet predisposing them to frostbite.

Myself along with the kids are not in the frostbite category. The exposure is rellativly short and the pain comes when they are warming up. The hands may be redish, but the pains feel internal to the finger. What happens to the blood vessels when they are warming up that causes pain?
Expert:  Kerry replied 10 years ago.

The blood vessels spasm. This is what causes the pain. :)

That's as simple as I can say it. Haha.

Hope that helps!

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