Why Are My Fingers So Cold?!

I am on a ton of medications - medications to keep my heart beating slower and more effectively. Medications to keep my blood from clotting and to dilate my blood vessels. Medications to help my heartbeat more efficiently. All of the medicines come with packaging, an obscene amount of mandatory regulatory information packaging, and some side effects. I wish this information included the side effects and how you would feel, and what would happen to your body.

Gloves in the summer?

In the middle of a hot summer day five months after I was diagnosed, I found myself bringing winter gloves into the grocery store. My hands would freeze in the frozen food aisle.  I was alarmed – am I losing my fingers? I later learned that for my condition, the medications were causing this to happen.

It's the meds

One of the medications I take is beta blockers that work to slow my heart rate and reduce the force at which blood is pumped throughout my body. The other culprit is ACE inhibitors. As the name suggests, ACE inhibitors inhibit Angiotensin-II production, which causes my blood vessels to dilate, which in turn lowers my blood pressure. 

If you take a garden hose and run water at high pressure from the faucet, water comes out pretty fast with a lot of force. Now imagine that you take that hose, widen the diameter, and reduce the water pressure – less water comes out with less force. Now imagine your heart is the faucet, and the ends of your fingers and toes are the hose opening – less warm blood is pumping to your extremities.

Hunting socks work well

My feet get cold too - same reason. Summer just ended, and there were some nights where I was dressed in shorts and my husband's thick wool hunting socks. It's really awful and uncomfortable cold. The hunting socks aren't all that stylish, but they work.  My cousin, an avid skier, passed away unexpectedly years ago. My aunt sent me his old skiing socks, which work very well. I always have ample socks and gloves around in case I experience cold digits. Mittens worked better for me because each finger could grab what heat lingered in the other fingers.

It will be ok

I want others to know that these uncomfortable changes our bodies experience are likely due to our health conditions and resulting medications. If you have heart failure and start your medication cocktail full of beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors, your heart will begin to work more effectively with each beat, but your body will start reacting. 

Less oxygen and blood will go to your fingers and toes, and they will get cold, even during a hot summer day. You will find comfort with the horrible fashion choice of wooly mittens and socks. I wish people told me about this early on in my diagnosis and that it's ok. As always, if you are experiencing similar issues, it's still best to talk with your doctors who follow your care.

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