Why Are Your Feet Cold?

Do your feet often feel like ice blocks? You may have a medical condition that needs treatment. Diseases from diabetes to anemia can affect the temperature of your feet. Learn the causes to help you figure out when you need a doctor's attention.

Complications of Diabetes

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

Peripheral neuropathy. This complication of diabetes damages the nerves in your feet. They may feel cold to you but normal when you touch them.

You may notice a burning, freezing, tingling, or stabbing sensation in your feet. They might also feel weak or numb.

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.

The kind of treatment you get depends on what's causing your peripheral neuropathy, but it can include medications, nerve stimulation, and physical therapy.

If you have peripheral neuropathy, be careful when warming your feet. If you've lost feeling due to damaged nerves, you could burn yourself if you use hot water, hot water bottles, or heating pads. Instead, wear warm socks.

Foot care is important if you have peripheral neuropathy because wounds can fester without you noticing. Always wear shoes and make sure they fit well. Check your feet every day.

Peripheral artery disease. It 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.

Other symptoms of peripheral artery disease include:

  • Sores on your feet that don't heal
  • Calf pain, especially when you walk
  • One foot feels colder than the other

See your doctor if you suspect you have any of these symptoms. To prevent it from getting worse and to treat it, you may need to:

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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.

Hypothyroidism affects more women than men. Symptoms often start gradually. They may include:

See your doctor if you notice any of these problems. A daily pill can treat the condition.

Raynaud's

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 white 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). It's 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.

Treatment for Raynaud's depends on the type and the cause. Sometimes you can manage the symptoms on your own by wearing mittens and warm clothes, and making other lifestyle changes. But doctors can prescribe medications that may help.

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.

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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.

Other symptoms of anemia include things like:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Pale skin
  • Cold hands

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 down blood flow and could form clots and cause infection.

If you have Buerger's disease, your hands and feet may look pale, red, or bluish, and may tingle or hurt. You might also feel pain in your legs, ankles, or the arch of your foot when you walk. You may get sores or ulcers on your hands or feet.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on May 04, 2019

Sources

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!"

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