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Why are My Hands Cold and Clammy?

Patients who are suffering from Palmar hyperhidrosis will often complain of cold and wet or clammy hands. The reason for this clammy feeling is twofold. First, the overacting sympathetic chain causes vaso-constriction (narrowing of the blood vessels), which slows down the blood flow to the fingers. This, combined with the evaporation of sweat can cause clamminess.

Another symptom that is associated with both cold/clammy hands, is a discoloration of the fingers to a somewhat red or blueish color. The reason this sometimes happens is typically due to vaso constriction of the blood vessels. This slows the flow of blood in those areas of the body (hands and feet). With this restricted flow, there is also more oxygen extracted from the blood, resulting in a darker color.

The sympathectomy procedure will create a temporary warming of the fingers right after the surgery which is not permanent. For some it lasts for a few months, or years on very rare occasions. The reason for this is that the sympathectomy is much more effective on the sweat glands when compared to the blood vessels.

The blood vessels are autonomous in their ability to constrict or dilate, and that explains why the cold aspects of the clamminess symptoms may come back. Cold hands can also be caused by certain vascular disorders. These cause a pathological narrowing of the blood vessels. An appropriate discussion between the doctor and patient in regards to medical treatment of this condition would be an appropriate step.

There are some explanations as to why the cold and clammy feeling becomes more intense, but the reasons are vast and complex. There are some medications that can be used (alpha blockers), and the usage of those medications to help with the clamminess should be discussed with the treating physician.

Should I have Surgery if I Only Have Cold Hands?

This is a very common question. Cold hands alone is not an appropriate reason to do the surgery. In the above paragraphs, the physiological mechanisms of cold and clamminess symptoms are explained. It is a difficult subject to understand, but hopefully our explanation helps. Please post any questions you have in the comments below!

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