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Cold Hands: Sign Of A Serious Health Problem?

By Kate Merrill, WBZ-TV
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Cold Hands Health Issue

Cold hands can be a nuisance, but sometimes point to a more serious health issue.

WBZ-TV's Kate Merrill Kate Merrill
Kate Merrill is an Emmy award winning journalist for WBZ-TV News. She...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Everyone gets cold hands now and then, particularly this winter. But for some people, cold hands could be a sign of a serious health problem.

“If it takes more than 20 minutes to warm your hands, then there is a problem,” explained Rheumatologist Dr. Madera Swiess.

Cold hands could signal heart or thyroid disease or autoimmune problems. It can even be a side effect of decongestants.

WBZ-TV’s Kate Merrill with the report.

Sarah Lindeman has suffered from cold hands for years. Her fingers turn white at the ends and tingle. She has Reynaud’s syndrome, a disorder that affects the flow of blood to the fingers.

“For me it started in one finger that turned purple and was colder to the touch than my other fingers,” she said.

In recent years, doctors have started using two surprising drugs to help treat patients with the most severe cases of Reynaud’s, Viagra and Botox.

Viagra is normally used for erectile dysfunction and Botox is most commonly used for wrinkles, but both can help makes hands warmer.

“When we give the patients those medications we’re trying to overall increase the blood flow to their hands,” explained Dr. Ginard Henry.

Diana Mertz has had Reynaud’s for 30 years and every year she says her symptoms keep getting worse. It is now to the point where she avoids going outside during the winter.

“I’m right-handed and the circulation in my right hand is worse. It’s affected my ability to do small hand tasks,” she said.

Within minutes of the Botox injections, Diana’s hands slowly returned to a healthy pink color. “I’m surprised at the color coming back so quickly,” she said

“The tingling in my middle finger in my right hand, which was always there, is gone,” she added.

Reynaud’s is not always a sign of something serious. In many cases, a quick rinse under warm water will bring the color back to the fingers.

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