Having cold feet can be really distracting. It may be hard to focus or get things done! And while cold feet is often caused by low temps, there might be other reasons. Learn about these nine possible reasons why your feet feel frozen.
1. Raynaud’s Disease
Obviously, low temperatures can make your feet cold. But when they become numb, a disorder called Raynaud’s disease might be the reason. It happens when smaller arteries become narrow, stopping the blood supply to your skin and extremities. The fingers are usually affected, but 40% of Raynaud’s patients see symptom in the toes.
But this is a rare condition. Only 5 percent of Americans have this disease.1
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, develops when your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone (TH). Unfortunately, your body’s temperature and energy are regulated by TH. So if there isn’t enough TH, you’ll have a hard time dealing with the cold.2
Hypothyroidism is also a common cause of peripheral neuropathy. The good news? It’s easy to diagnose with thyroid level blood tests.3 Once the hypothyroidism is under control, the severity of cold feet should lessen.
3. Nerve Damage
Peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage, is very common.4 It’s marked by pain, numbness, and tingling in the feet. You also won’t be able to detect temperature changes, because the nerves’ sensations aren’t working properly.5
The possible causes are endless. Examples include poor blood flow, high levels of toxins, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation of the blood vessels, shingles, and low vitamins of B12 – just to name a few.6 Conditions on this list, like hypothyroidism, diabetes, and excessive alcohol intake may also be the culprit. So it’s extremely important to visit your doctor. Several tests might be needed before the problem is found.
Your blood is in charge of transporting oxygen throughout the body. It’s like fuel for your skin, organs, and cells. But if you have anemia, your blood cannot perform this properly.7 The result is cold feet and hands along with pale skin and headaches.
Usually, anemia is caused by low iron intake. But it can happen during pregnancy, heavy periods, and any kind of blood loss. Ulcers and blood disorders might also lead to anemia.8 Treatment will depend on the specific cause.
5. Excessive Sweating
Your body sweats in order to cool down.9 However, if you have excessive sweating, you might feel pretty chilly. And your extremities will be the first to know!
Sweating too much may be from overactive sweat glands, a disorder called hyperhidrosis. The body sweats to cool down, even when it doesn’t need to.10 Excessive sweating might also be a symptom of conditions like menopause and hyperthyroidism.11
6. Smoking And Alcohol Abuse
Normally, your blood vessels transport nutrients to the peripheral nerves. But smoking prevents this because it constricts those vessels. Eventually, the nerves become weak and damaged.12
About half of heavy alcohol drinkers will also develop peripheral neuropathy. Alcohol literally poisons the nerves, making them weak over time.13 Chronic intake is also linked to vitamin deficiencies, which contributes to the risk.14
Of all the potential causes of peripheral neuropathy, diabetes is the most common. It develops when high sugar levels damage the nerves.15 In fact, it’s estimated that 26.4 percent of type 2 diabetics have peripheral neuropathy.16
Diabetics are also more likely to have hypertension and heart problems, leading to peripheral vascular disease (PVD). This condition is marked by narrowing of blood vessels in areas like the legs. The result is poor leg circulation plus pain, discomfort, and fatigue. Controlling both hypertension and diabetes with healthy lifestyle habits can improve PVD and therefore, leg circulation.17
A long-term antibiotic may bring about peripheral neuropathy. In some cases, the harm may be permanent and irreversible.18 So if you’re taking antibiotics for a condition like an acne or Lyme disease, do talk to your doctor about the side effects.
While chemotherapy kills cancer cells, it may also damage the nerves. This is known as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). You’ll be more sensitive to the heat and cold and might lose feeling in your feet.19
9. Vitamin Deficiencies
Vitamins B12, B6, and B9 (folic acid) are necessary to make new blood cells. But when your intake is low, anemia can develop. Oxygenated blood won’t be able to reach your extremities, leading to cold feet.20
These vitamins, along with other types of B vitamins, are also needed for nerve health. Vitamin B12 is especially important for healthy nerve cells.21 So if you don’t eat enough, peripheral neuropathy can form.
To fix these deficiencies, eat healthy proteins like eggs, fish, and lean meat. Other sources include fortified cereals, leafy greens, dairy, beans, and bread.22
Most cases of cold feet aren’t a huge concern. But if the problem persists or your skin changes color, tell your doctor. If it can’t be fixed by warm socks, it’s worth a check-up!
|↑1||What Is Raynaud’s?, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute|
|↑2||Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases|
|↑3, ↑16||Azhary, Hend, Farooq, Muhammad U. Farooq, Minal Bhanushali, Arshad Majid, and Mounzer Y. Kassab. “Peripheral Neuropathy: Differential Diagnosis and Management.” American Family Physician. 81.7(2010):887-892.|
|↑4, ↑15||Peripheral neuropathy, MedlinePlus|
|↑5||Peripheral neuropathy – symptoms, NHS Choices|
|↑6||Peripheral neuropathy – Causes, NHS Choices|
|↑8||What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Anemia?, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute|
|↑9||What’s Sweat?, KidsHealth|
|↑10||Hyperhidrosis: Overview, American Academy of Dermatology|
|↑12, ↑14||Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke|
|↑13||Alcohol neuropathy, MedlinePlus|
|↑17||What Is Peripheral Vascular Disease?, American Heart Association|
|↑18||FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA requires label changes to warn of risk for possibly permanent nerve damage from antibacterial fluoroquinolone drugs taken by mouth or by injection, Food and Drug Administration|
|↑19||Peripheral Neuropathy Caused By Chemotherapy, American Cancer Association|
|↑20, ↑22||B Vitamins, MedlinePlus|
|↑21||Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin), University of Maryland Medical Center|