Cold Feet
Symptoms, Causes, Questions & Related Topics

Cold Feet May Also be Known as:

  • Chilly feet
  • Icy feet
  • Cold toes
  • Freezing toes



Top 5 Causes of Cold Feet

1. Cold Weather

Your extremities (including your hands and feet) are more likely to get cold quickly if it is cold outside or cold in a room. As such, you’ll want to do your best to protect your feet in cold weather. When it’s snowing or fiercely cold, wear shoes that protect your feet. Make sure your feet stay dry in cold or wet weather.[1]

2. Poor Circulation

There are many reasons a person might have consistent issues with cold feet, one of the most common being poor circulation.[2] Poor circulation can be caused by smoking or medical conditions such as diabetes or hypothyroidism.

Poor circulation may also be attributed to a sedentary lifestyle. Make sure to keep blood circulating by moving frequently and staying active.

3. Nerve Damage

Sometimes, a person experiences cold in their extremities because the nerves that are in that area are damaged. These nerves are meant to recognize temperature, but they cannot function correctly if there is extensive damage.[3] If this is the case, the individual’s feet won’t actually be cold if someone else touches them, but the person will still feel as if they are cold and might even experience pins-and-needles sensations in the feet.

4. Normal Response

Some people just have cold feet, like others might simply experience cold hands more often than others. There might be no external or internal issue causing it, and it may not be a medical issue at all.[3] If this is the case, it’s best to wear thick socks and to try and find comfort by warming the feet.

5. Emotional ‘Cold Feet’

Of course, there is also the term “cold feet,” which means you are anxious or concerned about an upcoming event.[4] Many people say they have “cold feet” if they are worried about taking a big step such as getting married. In this sense, it actually has nothing to do with the temperature of your feet.

Possible Health Conditions Related to Cold Feet

1. Anemia

People who have anemia, or a shortage of red blood cells in the body, often experience cold feet. Other symptoms of anemia can be dizziness, tiredness, irritability, headaches, and shortness of breath.[5] Some people struggle with anemia as a result of heavy periods, pregnancy, or ulcers, while others might have a blood disorder, such as sickle cell anemia.

2. Hypothyroidism

When a person has hypothyroidism, it means their body doesn’t produce the correct amount of hormones for the thyroid to function properly.[6] The body’s metabolism doesn’t work properly when this occurs, affecting its ability to regulate temperature. As a result, the feet can become cold, even when the rest of the body is not.

3. Diabetes

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause cold feet.[2] If a person’s diabetes goes unchecked, nerve damage can occur, leading to cold feet. It is important to always check your feet for scrapes or cuts if you have diabetes, as they could go untended if you have nerve damage. Other symptoms of diabetes include frequent infections in the kidneys, bladder, or skin; increased hunger; increased need to urinate; increased thirst; and mysterious weight loss.[7]

4. Peripheral Vascular Disease

When a person has PVD, their blood vessels begin to narrow, making it harder for blood to reach the other parts of the body.[8] This disorder is fairly rare, but cold feet can be a potential sign, specifically because of the lack of circulation. It can hurt to exercise or move about when you have PVD, and it is also easy to tire out very quickly when affected by this disease. Lifestyle changes and medication are often used to treat this disorder.

5. Raynaud’s Phenomenon

Raynaud’s phenomenon or Raynaud’s disease is another somewhat rare disease that can lead to the cold feet. This disease causes the blood vessels to narrow when the individual feels cold or stressed out, and when the vessels return to normal, they spasm.[9] There isn’t a known cause for the disorder, but it is important for people who have it to try and avoid stress. When they have an attack, they can put their hands and/or feet in warm water to avoid the narrowing of their blood vessels.

6. Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis causes the arteries to narrow because of plaque buildup. The condition is most common in elderly patients. There are several types of atherosclerosis, including coronary artery disease and carotid artery disease. As with other similar conditions, the narrowing of the arteries makes it hard for other parts of the body to get the oxygen and nutrients they need, potentially leading to chilly feet. Other signs are leg pain, fatigue, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, and muscle weakness.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Your Cold Feet

  • Do you have diabetes, hypothyroidism, or another type of disorder?
  • Have you ever sustained any nerve damage in your feet?
  • Do you feel anything else in your feet besides the cold, such as a pins-and-needles sensation or pain?
  • Are your feet cold to the touch?
  • How often do you experience cold feet?
  • What is usually happening when your feet become cold?

Sources

  1. United State Department of Labor. Cold Stress Guide. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/guides/cold.html
  2. HealthLine. Why Are My Feet Cold? https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-feet#causes
  3. Harvard Medical School. Causes of cold feet. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/causes-of-cold-feet
  4. Merriam Webster. Cold Feet. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cold%20feet
  5. National Library of Medicine. Anemia. https://medlineplus.gov/anemia.html
  6. PubMed Health. Hypothyroidism. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0022777/
  7. National Library of Medicine. Type 2 Diabetes. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000313.htm
  8. HealthLine. Peripheral Vascular Disease. https://www.healthline.com/health/peripheral-vascular-disease
  9. National Library of Medicine. Raynaud’s disease. https://medlineplus.gov/raynaudsdisease.html

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