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Cold skin is a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious disorders, diseases or conditions. Cold skin can result from exposure to cold or wetness, metabolic diseases and disorders, infection and other abnormal processes.
Temporarily having cold skin can be a normal reaction to everyday conditions and situations, such as briefly washing hands in cold water, touching cold metal or holding a glass of ice water.
Cold skin can also be a symptom of metabolic diseases and disorders, such as hypothyroidism and metabolic acidosis. Cold skin can also occur in shock, anemia, and death and impending death. Cold skin can also be a side effect of some medications or occur with narcotic overdose.
Cold skin that occurs with moist skin or sweating can result in clammy skin. Clammy skin can be a symptoms of febrile illnesses and infectious diseases, such as pneumonia and influenza. Clammy skin also occurs in heat exhaustion.
Complications that can accompany cold skin vary depending on the underlying disorder, disease or condition and its severity. Some complications, such as those due to severe hypothermia and metabolic acidosis are life-threatening. For more details about symptoms and complications, see symptoms of cold skin.
Diagnosing a root cause of a cold skin begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination.
Temperature is an important measure of body temperature, which can help to asses a variety of conditions that can cause cold skin or clammy skin, such as a low body temperature (hypothermia) or a febrile illness. A core body temperature taken rectally or through other specialized means in the hospital is the most accurate means to determine body temperature. Although normal body temperature varies somewhat, the average normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius.
Blood tests that can help to diagnose an underlying disease, disorder or condition include a chemistry panel, which measures the levels of important electrolytes in the blood, including sodium (salt) and can help to evaluate if dehydration is present and help confirm a diagnosis of heat exhaustion.
To determine if anemia is causing cold skin, a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC) is done to measure the numbers of the different types of blood cells in the blood. Low amounts of red blood cells are indicative of anemia.
Cold skin due to frostbite or frost nip can generally be diagnosed with a visual exam combined with a history of exposure to cold.
To determine if hypothyroidism is causing cold skin, blood tests are performed to determine levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and the thyroid hormone thyroxine. High levels of TSH and low levels of thyroxine indicate hypothyroidism.
An arterial blood gas test is generally performed in cases of suspected metabolic acidosis or respiratory acidosis, which can cause cold skin. This blood test measures the acid-base balance in the body and the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.
Making a diagnosis also includes performing a variety of other tests to help to diagnose potential underlying diseases, conditions or disorders of cold skin. Depending on the suspected cause, tests can include additional blood tests, culture and sensitivity tests, EKG, and imaging tests, such as chest X-ray, which can reveal pneumonia.
A diagnosis of the disease, disorder or condition that underlies cold skin can easily be delayed or missed because cold skin may be mild or not believed to be a symptom of a serious condition. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of cold skin.
Treatment of cold skin involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing it. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of cold skin. ...more »
Symptoms that accompany cold skin vary depending on the underlying cause.
Symptoms that can accompany cold skin due to hypothermia include shivering, Body temperature below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, clumsiness, slurred speech and confusion. Complications of hypothermia include coma and death.
Symptoms that can accompany cold skin due ...more symptoms »
Treatment plans for cold skin are individualized depending on the underlying cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause and decreases the risk of developing serious complications.
The first step in treating cold skin is ...more treatments »
Diagnosing cold skin and its underlying cause may be delayed or missed because in some cases, cold skin may not be severe enough for a person to seek medical care. Some forms of anemia progress slowly and do not result in dramatic symptoms for a long period of time. Some people who have hypothyroidism also have vague symptoms. In addition, it is not unusual for ...more misdiagnosis »
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