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27 November 2017, 10:57
If you find that as soon as winter arrives, your fingers and toes feel like they're going to fall off from frostbite, then you're not the only one.
While a lot of us may assume this is due to 'poor circulation', it may actually have more to do with what you're wearing.
Vascular consultant Professor Whiteley at The Whiteley Clinic has explained how in most cases, people's arteries are actually flowing perfectly fine.
"Many people will mistakenly use the term 'poor circulation' when complaining about having unusually cold hands and toes – particularly in the cold winter months," Whiteley explained to Net Doctor.
"What is actually happening is the vessels which transport the warm blood to the extremities, such as the toes, ears, nose and fingers, are very sensitive to the cold, and go into spasm.
"Therefore this is not a problem with circulation, it is actually a problem with the microcirculation [the smallest blood vessels in the body]."
Essentially, poor circulation is when arteries are blocked or narrowed, resulting in the restriction of blood flow through the vessels. This is usually caused by lifestyle habits such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and old age.
So, what exactly is reactive microcirculation? Professor Whiteley explains that there are a few causes:
"Many people who suffer from this problem are very slim, and therefore lose heat more quickly during the cold weather. Other people may experience problems with cold hands and feet due to a low metabolic rate, particularly if they have a low thyroid function or if they are on drugs that cause poor flow in the small vessels such as Beta-blockers."
So, in terms of treating this, Whiteley says that wrapping up warm is the most obvious and easiest way to prevent problems occurring.
"If you wear sensible clothing you will not lose body heat, and your fingers and toes will stay nice and warm. However, if you are wearing inefficient layers that do not keep the warm in then you will start to lose heat and, once your temperature starts to drop, your body will take action to preserve heat to the core."
That basically means it's time to get that new Christmas jumper you've fancied for a while.
You may also get freezing hands and feet more than others because you suffer from what is known as Raynaud's syndrome, where peripheral arteries go into spasm.
This affects blood vessels in fingers and toes, and causes them to narrow when you are cold or under stress. Simple measures you can take to prevent this from happening include keeping your hands and feet warm and dry (obviously), warming your hands and feet with warm water, avoiding air conditioning, wearing gloves to touch frozen foods, wearing several layers of loose clothing and a hat when it's cold, and exercising regularly.