Psychology says that physical temperature can affect how we feel about and act towards other people.
So basically, if you’re holding a warm oat milk latte while standing in the elevator with your way-too-loud neighbor, your warm hands might make you warm up to them. Warm hands, warm heart. 💕
But what if your hands are super warm but there’s no oat milk latte in sight? How do you know if you need to see your doc?
We’ve got you. Here are nine potential causes of warm hands that may warrant a trip to your doctor.
1. Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation in your joints. RA usually starts to affect smaller areas first (hello hands!), and it can make your joints feel warm.
Other symptoms of RA include:
The medical community still doesn’t know, but they have identified several risk factors, including:
- Sex. It’s more common in women.
- Age. Your risk increases as you get older.
- Weight. Having obesity increases your risk.
- Smoking. Those who smoke have an increased risk.
There is no cure for RA, but your doctor can help you manage the pain and slow the joint damage through medications, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery.
Gout is another form of inflammatory arthritis in the joints. While it mostly goes for your lower extremities, gout can also affect your wrists and fingers. During a bout of gout, you’ll experience pain, swelling, redness, and — you guessed it — heat in affected joints.
The usual suspect is hyperuricemia, a condition that causes elevated uric acid in your blood. Men may be more likely to develop hyperuricemia, but there are other contributing factors, including:
- having certain health conditions, including obesity, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and diabetes
- drinking alcohol
- consuming a lot of fructose
- eating a lot of purine-rich foods, like red meat, organ meat, mussels, scallops, trout, and tuna
There’s no cure for gout, but it can be treated and managed with anti-inflammatory medication and maintenance, like eating a balanced diet and increasing physical activity.
3. Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome — a condition where your median nerve gets compressed or pinched — could also be a culprit.
Your median nerve is responsible for giving you feeling in most of your fingers, so this compression can cause sensations like warmth, tingling, numbness, and pain in your fingers.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is pretty common and have multiple causes:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- overactive pituitary gland
- underactive thyroid gland
- frequent use of vibrating tools
- cyst or tumor in the carpal tunnel
- mechanical problems in the wrist joint
- fluid retention due to pregnancy or menopause
- swelling from a sprain, fracture, or other trauma to the wrist
Severe carpal tunnel syndrome is often treated with surgery, but there are also nonsurgical options to give a go first:
- taking breaks from activities that worsen symptoms
- anti-inflammatory medication
- physical therapy
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that likes to dress up as arthritis, causing joint stiffness and numbness or tingling in your hands that can feel like a burning sensation. But fibromyalgia isn’t a form of arthritis because it doesn’t cause any actual damage to your joints or tissues.
It comes with a laundry list of symptoms, though, including:
- brain fog
- restless leg syndrome
- irritable bowel syndrome
- sensitivity to temperature
- painful menstrual periods
- sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights
- trouble sleeping and waking up feeling unrested
There isn’t a known cause of fibromyalgia, but you’re more likely to have it if someone else in your fam has it. There also aren’t any lab tests that can confirm fibromyalgia, so it’s a tough one to diagnose.
While there isn’t a cure for fibromyalgia, your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following to manage your symptoms:
- exercising, getting more sleep, and eating a balanced diet
- alternative therapies, including acupuncture, massage, and herbal supplements
- medications, including antidepressants, painkillers, and anti-inflammatory drugs
Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that causes pain, redness, swelling, and heat at the infected area. It occurs most often in the legs, but it can happen anywhere on the body, including your hands. Other symptoms include fever, blisters, and soreness of the affected area.
Cellulitis is caused by bacteria entering your system through a cut, scrape, insect bite, burn, or surgical incision. Anyone can get cellulitis, but you’re more susceptible to it if you have one of the following:
- chronic illness
- impaired immune system
- skin conditions that cause breaks in the skin, like shingles or eczema
If you have cellulitis, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection. It usually stays on the skin’s surface, but it can spread to other areas of the body, so seek treatment ASAP if you suspect you have it.
6. Peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is a catchall term for any condition that damages the peripheral nervous system, which is how your brain talks with the rest of your body.
Depending on which nerves are affected, symptoms can range from losing reflexes and the ability to feel pain to excessive sweating and tingling sensations.
There are a bunch of potential underlying causes that can cause peripheral neuropathy, including:
- physical injury
- hormonal imbalances
- autoimmune diseases
- kidney and liver disorders
- vascular and blood problems
- nutritional or vitamin imbalances
- certain cancers and chemotherapy drugs
First and foremost, your doctor will try to figure out the underlying cause of your peripheral neuropathy. If it can be treated, your nerves may be able to heal on their own.
If your pain is chronic, your doctor may prescribe pain or antidepressant medications or recommend nerve stimulation or surgery.
7. Palmar erythema
Palmar erythema is a rare skin condition that causes redness and warmth in the heel of the palm and sometimes the fingers. The redness is typically blotchy, and the severity varies.
Palmar erythema is sometimes hereditary, sometimes has no known cause, and other times results from certain conditions, including:
- liver disease
- autoimmune diseases
- endocrine issues
- brain cancer
- lung disease
- certain infections
There is no treatment for palmar erythema. To find relief, you’ll work with your doc to address the underlying causes of your symptoms.
8. Complex regional pain syndrome
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) can also cause temperature changes in the skin. This condition involves damaged nerves that cause pain and inflammation in an arm or leg.
Additional symptoms include:
- joint stiffness
- changes in bone density
- unprovoked or excess pain
- changes in skin color or texture
- impaired muscle strength and movement
- abnormal sweating or nail and hair growth
The nerve damage associated with CRPS is typically caused by physical injury (fracture, sprain, strain) or surgery. Less common causes are tiny clots that restrict blood flow to a nerve, tumors, certain infections, or abnormal blood vessels.
Treatment options for CRPS include:
- rehabilitation and physical therapy
- spinal cord stimulation
- spinal fluid drug pumps
- sympathetic nerve blocks
- alternative therapies like acupuncture
Erythromelalgia is rare, but it’s known to cause burning pain in your hands, along with discoloration, swelling, and excessive sweating. The symptoms are usually triggered when your body temperature increases for any reason.
The condition is usually caused by underlying medical issues, like:
- blood disorders
- nerve damage
- multiple sclerosis
- autoimmune disease
- defective gene
Your course of treatment will depend on your specific case of erythromelalgia. Here’s what your doc might recommend:
- local anesthetics
- prescription pain relievers
- anti-epilepsy medication
- blood pressure medication
- dietary supplements like magnesium
Unless your warm hands can be explained by temperature changes, wearing gloves, or holding a hot drink, there could be a medical reason you’re no cool hand Luke.
If your hot hands persist, talk with your doctor to see what’s bringing the heat. They will assess your medical history and other symptoms to develop a treatment plan that’s right for you (high five!).
Warm hands might mean warm, fuzzy feelings in the world of psychology — but if your warm hands are accompanied by other symptoms, your body might be waving a red flag. If that’s the case, make sure to call your doc to chat about potential causes and treatment options.