Why Are My Feet Always Cold

Essentially, feeling frigid is a result of your body generally slowing down, notes the American Thyroid Association. Other symptoms include:

Cold Feet

Cold feet may be your body’s normal response to temperature, but it can sometimes be related to a medical condition that needs treatment. Diseases from diabetes to anemia can affect the temperature of your feet.Cold feet may be your body’s normal response to temperature, but it can sometimes be related to a medical condition that needs treatment. Diseases from diabetes to anemia can affect the temperature of your feet.

Cold Feet Symptoms

Other symptoms that may come along with cold feet and signal a medical condition include:

  • Weakness and pain in your hands and feet
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Color changes to your skin when you’re cold or stressed
  • A numb feeling as you get warm or relieve stress

Cold Feet Causes

Complications of diabetes

If you have diabetes, you’re at risk for a variety of problems that can affect your feet:

This complication of diabetes damages the nerves in your feet. They may feel cold to you but normal when you touch them. People without diabetes can also get peripheral neuropathy. Some things that can cause it are injury, autoimmune diseases, alcoholism, lack of vitamins, bone marrow disorders, underactive thyroid, and medications.

This condition slows or blocks blood flow to your legs and feet. Poor circulation can make your feet cold. (It’s possible to get peripheral artery disease without having diabetes. Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and age all raise your chances of getting the condition.)

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

Your thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, might be to blame for your cold feet. It makes hormones that affect almost all your organs. The hormones also help turn food and oxygen into energy. If you have an underactive thyroid, your thyroid doesn’t release enough hormones. It could make you feel cold all over, including your feet.

Raynaud’s disease or phenomenon

Raynaud’s causes your body to overreact to cold. When the temperature drops, your fingers and toes may feel numb and frozen. They sometimes even change colors, first pale and then blue. As they warm up, they may sting and turn red. Cold weather, air conditioning, and stress or anxiety can bring on these attacks.

If you have Raynaud’s, you get problems with some of your arteries — blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The arteries in your hands and feet spasm and narrow. This keeps blood from moving well to your fingers and toes and sometimes your nose, lips, ears, and nipples. Raynaud’s is more common in cold climates and affects women more often than men. There are two types:

  • Primary Raynaud’s (also called Raynaud’s disease). This is the most common of the two types and also has milder symptoms.
  • Secondary Raynaud’s (also called Raynaud’s phenomenon or Raynaud’s syndrome). It may be more serious and strikes at an older age. A number of different things, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, injuries, or carpal tunnel syndrome, can cause it. Medications, like beta-blockers for high blood pressure and some migraine drugs, could cause it, too.

If you have Raynaud’s, call your doctor if you get sores on your fingers, toes, or other areas. Quick treatment can help prevent damage.

Anemia

Your cold feet could be a sign that you’re anemic. That means your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, or they aren’t healthy enough to do their job of taking oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.

See your doctor if you show signs of anemia, because it can be a symptom of another illness. Treatment depends on what type of anemia you have.

Buerger’s disease

Buerger’s disease is rare, but if you smoke or chew tobacco and your feet are cold, this condition may be the reason. The disease, linked to tobacco use, causes blood vessels in the hands and feet to swell. That slows blood flow and could form clots and cause infection.

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See your doctor if you have any symptoms of Buerger’s disease. It’s more common in men than women, and in people under 45. The only cure for Buerger’s is to stop using tobacco completely.

High cholesterol

If you have high cholesterol you may be at a higher risk of circulation problems, which lead to cold feet. Trouble with circulation (also called arterial disease) is the result of the build-up of cholesterol and inflammation in your blood vessels.

Stress

When you’re stressed, your body pushes blood toward your core and away from your hands and feet.

Cold Feet Diagnosis

Since there’s a wide range of causes of cold feet, it’s important to see a doctor. They’ll help to diagnose any possible underlying medical conditions and suggest treatments. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. They may also run tests to confirm or rule out medical problems that cause your cold feet.

Cold Feet Treatments

Whether or not a medical problem is causing your cold feet, there are some ways to warm up:

  • Put on socks or slippers
  • Stretch or move your feet
  • Stop smoking (nicotine makes it harder for blood to reach your hands and feet)
  • Lower your cholesterol through diet and medication
  • Lower your stress
  • Get more iron, vitamin B12, and folate to improve circulation

Show Sources

American Diabetes Association: “Foot Complications.”

American Heart Association: “Peripheral Artery Disease and Diabetes,” “Peripheral Artery Disease.”

Mayo Clinic: “Peripheral neuropathy,” “Raynaud’s disease,” “Anemia,” “Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid),” “Buerger’s disease.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Raynaud’s Phenomenon,” “Thyroid Disease.”

American Society of Hematology: “Anemia.”

Harvard Medical School: “The lowdown on thyroid slowdown.”

Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center: “Buerger’s Disease.”

CDC: “Diabetes and You: Healthy Feet Matter!”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Causes of cold feet.”

LiveWell: “When Cold Hands and Feet Point to Larger Circulation Problems.”

Foot Health Facts: “Cold Feet.”

9 Reasons Your Feet Are Always Cold

parent and child wearing colorful socks warming cold feet in front of radiator

There are plenty of reasons why your feet are cold, including vitamin deficiencies or just plain old cold weather.

Image Credit: Evgen_Prozhyrko/iStock/GettyImages

Always have cold feet, but in the literal sense? Understandable when it’s wintertime, but perhaps you deal with icy toes year-round, and the nippy weather only deepens the chill.

There are several things that may cause cold feet: Sometimes the case is benign (it’s just your own body’s physiology), while other times there may be underlying medical reasons that are important to get checked out.

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If you’re wondering why your feet are always cold, here’s what may be behind the freeze.

1. It’s in Your Genes

Cold feet are just a fact of life for some people, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Though there’s no specific “cold feet gene,” some researchers do think it’s an inherited trait.

Fix it:​ Slippers and warm socks are always a good idea, but there are things you can do beyond that to warm up your toes.

First, get active. “You can try moving your feet and legs back and forth to help recirculate blood in your extremities,” Nicholas Pantaleo, MD, internist and family medicine physician at Westmed Medical Group in Westchester, New York, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

You can also stimulate circulation by massaging your feet or clenching and unclenching your toes.

2. You’re More Sensitive to Cold Weather

Yes, this sounds entirely like a forehead-slapping response, but there’s a pretty neat reason for it: “Cold feet can occur in winter when the body decreases blood flow to the area,” Dr. Pantaleo says. “This is more common in colder months when the body tries to keep the rest of itself warm while decreasing heat loss through the feet.”

Fix it:​ Wearing extra-thick socks can help you fight the freeze in this case.

3. You Have a Nutrient Deficiency

Iron and vitamin B12 are two nutrients necessary for proper blood circulation. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells responsible for ferrying oxygen in the body, while B12 is needed for red blood cell formation. A deficiency in either can contribute to cold feet, Dr. Pantaleo says. You may also notice numbness and tingling in the feet if you’re lacking in B12, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Those at particular risk of running low on iron (a condition called iron-deficiency anemia) include people who are pregnant or who experience heavy periods, as well as those with GI diseases like celiac or ulcerative colitis, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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B12 deficiency is more likely in people with digestive diseases, vegetarians and those who are pregnant or lactating.

Other symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia, per the Mayo Clinic, include:

  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Feeling weak
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat or chest pain
  • Headache
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Inflamed or sore tongue
  • Brittle nails
  • Poor appetite
  • Cravings for non-food items, such as dirt
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Trouble thinking or remembering
  • Difficulty walking or balancing
  • Blurry vision
  • Swollen or sore tongue
  • Numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes

Fix it:​ Most of the time, a nutrient deficiency can be treated easily through diet changes and/or taking supplements. If you think you’re low on B12 or iron, talk to your doctor, who can help you find healthy ways to get your levels up.

4. You Could Have a Circulatory Disease

If there’s not enough blood flow getting to your feet, they may always feel cold.

Some diseases that can cause poor circulation, Dr. Pantaleo says, include:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Raynaud’s syndrome, a condition that causes blood vessels to spasm

One sign there’s a problem with your circulation: Your skin may change color, he says. For instance, in Raynaud’s, fingers and toes can change to white or blue in response to this lack of blood flow, per the Arthritis Foundation.

Fix it:​ Treatment with medications like calcium channel blockers may be recommended to keep blood vessels open if you’re diagnosed with Raynaud’s. If you have diabetes or obesity, talk to your doctor about the best cold feet remedies.

5. You Might Have Nerve Damage

Poor blood sugar control can lead to nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy. You might also experience numbness and tingling, Dr. Pantaleo says. That’s because these damaged nerves stop sending messages to certain parts of your body, per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Diabetes statistics show that about half of people with the condition also have nerve damage.

Fix it:​ If you have diabetes, you’ll want to work with your doctor to manage your blood sugar, Dr. Pantaleo says.

6. You May Have Thyroid Disease

One of the hallmark symptoms of an underactive thyroid (called hypothyroidism) is being intolerant to the cold — something that can make you feel as if your feet are perpetually chilly.

Essentially, feeling frigid is a result of your body generally slowing down, notes the American Thyroid Association. Other symptoms include:

  • Dry skin
  • Forgetfulness
  • Depression
  • Constipation

Fix it:​ If your doctor suspects a thyroid condition is causing your cold feet, they can order blood tests to check your thyroid function, then prescribe appropriate treatment.

7. You’re Taking a Beta-Blocker

Beta-blockers are sometimes prescribed to treat high blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic. These medications work by slowing down the heart. “When this occurs, it can affect the circulation in the body, especially to extremities like hands and feet,” Dr. Pantaleo says.

Cold hands and feet, fatigue and weight gain are common side effects of beta-blockers.

Fix it:​ If your symptoms are bothersome, continue taking your medication as prescribed and talk to your doctor about other medication options or the best way to deal with this side effect.

8. You’re Under Stress or Feeling Anxious

A couple of things happen when you’re under stress or dealing with anxiety: The fight-or-flight response directs blood flow away from hands and feet and into vital organs (to help you flee, if necessary), per the Cleveland Clinic.

You might also start to sweat, and this naturally cools down your body.

Fix it:​ While this isn’t dangerous, it’s certainly important to understand how your body reacts to stress and consider if you need to develop stress-management strategies that work better for you.

9. You Smoke

Smoking can make you prone to cold feet, Dr. Pantaleo says. Lighting up constricts blood vessels, which can cause toes (and fingers) to be generally cold.

Smoking is also linked to the development of a condition called Buerger’s disease, which is where clots form in blood vessels that restrict blood flow to certain areas, according to the CDC. Tobacco irritates blood vessels, setting the stage for this inflammatory cascade. Hands and feet may feel cold, have a burning sensation, tingle or be painful.

Fix it:​ The only way to prevent or stop problems from Buerger’s, such as tissue damage and pain, is to stop smoking.

When to See a Doctor

As noted above, you should work with a doctor if your cold feet are related to a medication, health problem or nutrient deficiency.

You should also seek medical help immediately if the color of your feet or toes change, Dr. Pantaleo says.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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