Why are my feet always cold?
Experiencing cold feet is normal from time to time. Changes in temperature, as well as health and lifestyle choices, are some of the most common causes of cold feet, and adjusting these factors will usually help relieve symptoms.
Causes of cold feet
There can be a variety of reasons for cold feet, from winter temperatures to circulation and nerve disorders. Causes of cold feet include:
Cold feet are one of the body's normal reactions to colder temperatures. When the body enters a colder area, blood vessels in the extremities, such as the hands and feet, will constrict. This reduces the blood flow to these areas, which also reduces the amount of heat the body loses.
The extremities are the parts of the body furthest from the vital organs, so reducing blood flow to the extremities also helps keep warmth and blood flow in the more important body parts.
Over time this reduced blood flow can cause decreased oxygen in the tissues, which may cause them to take on a bluish color. When temporary, these symptoms are not usually serious, and the body will return to normal as it warms up again.
Some people have Raynaud's phenomenon, where exposure to cold temperatures or high stress causes them to experience limited blood circulation, resulting in cold or numb fingers and toes.
High stress or anxiety
Being in a state of high stress or anxiety may also cause cold feet. One of the body's natural responses to stress or nervousness is to pump adrenaline into the bloodstream.
As it circulates, adrenaline causes the blood vessels at the periphery to constrict, which decreases the flow of blood to the outermost areas of the body. This response reserves energy and prepares for any bodily harm that may happen, as a result of the high-stress situation.
The modern world is full of stressors, but not many of them put the body at immediate risk, so this protective response may be more harmful than helpful if it is making the feet or hands cold regularly. Reducing stress and tension may help reduce symptoms in these cases.
Circulation issues are a very common cause of cold feet. A person with poor circulation will often struggle to get enough warm blood to their extremities, and may complain of cold hands and cold feet frequently.
Poor circulation can have a variety of causes. Living a sedentary lifestyle or sitting at a desk all day may reduce circulation to the legs and cause cold feet.
Smoking tobacco products can also make it more difficult for the blood to reach every area of the body, so people who smoke may be more likely to complain of cold feet.
High cholesterol can lead to plaques forming inside the arteries that can reduce circulation to the legs and feet, leading to cold feet.
Some heart conditions can also cause cold feet, so a person should speak to their doctor about any existing heart problems or risk factors.
Anemia is a condition that occurs when a person has too few normal red blood cells in their body. This can be due to many factors, including deficiency in iron, vitamin B12, or folate, or chronic kidney disease.
Moderate to severe cases of anemia may cause cold feet. Anemia usually responds well to changes in diet and supplements.
It is best to have anemia diagnosed by a doctor and to follow their treatment recommendations.
People with diabetes may be at risk of circulation problems, such as cold feet or hands.
Frequent high blood sugar levels can lead to narrowing of the arteries and a reduced blood supply to the tissues, which may cause cold feet.
In some people, diabetes can lead to diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a form of nerve damage. Diabetic nerve damage typically happens in people who have an uncontrolled, high blood sugar level for long periods of time.
Other symptoms of diabetic nerve damage include tingling or prickling sensations, numbness, or burning pain in the feet and legs. Symptoms may be worse at night.
Other nerve disorders may also be the cause of regular cold feet. Nerve damage may be caused by trauma or injury, such as severe frostbite, or may be due to an underlying medical condition.
Peripheral neuropathy may also be caused by liver or kidney disease, infection, or genetics. It usually causes additional symptoms, including numbness and tingling. Treating symptoms, such as cold feet, can help a person reduce their discomfort while waiting for a proper diagnosis.
Hypothyroidism is caused by an underactive thyroid gland, producing a low level of thyroid hormone, which has a negative impact on the body's metabolism.
The body's metabolism affects circulation, heartbeat, and body temperature, so anything that impacts on thyroid function and causes hypothyroidism can lead to cold feet.
People with hypothyroidism may be more sensitive to cold in general, and may experience other symptoms, such as fatigue, weight gain, and memory problems.
When to see a doctor
Although having occasional cold feet is normal, there are some instances when a visit to the doctor may be necessary. Anyone who experiences cold feet frequently or for no obvious reason should speak to their doctor about possible causes.
A person should also speak to a doctor if cold feet are accompanied by other symptoms, including:
- weight loss or gain
- significant joint pain
- sores on the fingers or toes that take a long time to heal
- skin changes, such as rashes, scales, or thick skin
If the feet feel cold internally, but the skin does not feel cold to the touch, a person should see a doctor, as this may be a sign of nerve damage or other neurological conditions.
RIVERA FOOT & ANKLE: At Orlando H.Rivera DPM, our priority is to deliver quality care to informed patients in a comfortable and convenient setting. When you have problems with your feet, you need to turn to a podiatrist who listens and responds… an experienced doctor who knows the field and can effectively diagnose and treat your needs… a friendly physician who counsels you on the best ways to maintain and improve your health. Our physician(s) meet all these criteria. Plus, you benefit from a dedicated team of trained professionals who give you the individualized attention you deserve.
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