Are you cold all the time? Do you know someone who always complains about cold hands or cold feet? As the temperature drops in the winter, the body draws blood from the extremities to maintain the core body temperature and sustain life. This is normal and usually can be fixed by putting on a pair of socks. Although it could be nothing, it could also be a precursor to something more serious. It's important to never ignore any symptoms, especially with cold feet. As they may only be causing mild discomfort, if they are accompanied by tingling sensations or the skin turning white or blue, cold feet may be the symptom of an underlying health issue that needs medical attention. Here are a few medical reasons for cold feet:
Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is the narrowing of the arteries to the legs, stomach, arms and head. PAD (also called PVD, or peripheral vascular disease) is most common in the arteries in the pelvis and legs (and feet!). It is a form of cholesterol build up, or atherosclerosis, caused by the collection of fatty deposits in the arteries. PVD is more common as people get older and it affects about 8.5 million Americans over the age of 40. Diabetics and people who smoke are at especially high risk for PVD.
Peripheral neuropathy, a result of damage to your peripheral nerves, often causes weakness, tingling, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet. Cold feet are often a sign of peripheral neuropathy. Your peripheral nervous system sends information from your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) to the rest of your body. When this is interrupted, the problems associated with peripheral neuropathy can occur. This condition can result from traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, inherited causes and exposure to toxins. One of the most common causes is diabetes.
Raynaud's disease is a rare disorder of the blood vessels, usually occurring in the fingers and toes. It causes the blood vessels to narrow when you are cold or feeling stressed. When this happens, blood can't get to the surface of the skin and the affected areas feel extremely cold and turn white and blue. When the blood flow returns, the skin turns red and throbs or tingles, sometimes described as "pins and needles".
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of certain important hormones. It can cause a number of symptoms, such as poor ability to tolerate cold, a feeling of tiredness, constipation, depression, and weight gain. When your thyroid doesn't produce enough hormones, the balance of chemical reactions in your body can be upset. There can be a number of causes, including autoimmune disease, treatment for hyperthyroidism, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery and certain medications. Very common in women over the age of 60 and usually becomes part of a normal medical check up,
Anemia is the most common blood condition in the U.S. It affects about 5.6% of the people in the United States. Women, young children, and people with chronic diseases are at increased risk of anemia. Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a main part of red blood cells and binds oxygen. If you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or your hemoglobin is abnormal or low, the cells in your body will not get enough oxygen. Symptoms of anemia -- like fatigue -- occur because organs aren't getting what they need to function properly. If you or anyone you know have been suffering with cold feet, you should get them checked out by a podiatrist or other medical professional.
(sources: WebMD, MayoClinic)
Dr. Jeffrey S. Hurless
DPM, FACFAS Board Certified Foot & Ankle Surgeon/Podiatrist
Medical Director, HealthyFeetStore.com