Cold Feet

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What are Cold Feet?

Cold feet are a symptom that can be a natural and harmless body reactio­n. The hum­an body does particular defense reactions w­hen a person is exposed to cold temperatures for a long-term period. In adverse conditions, blood is first sup­plied to critical organs such as the brain and heart, as their fun­ctioning is essential for survival. It is, therefore, to the distal parts of the body, such as the feet or hands, that blood flow is then restricted.

However, excessive sensations of cold fe­et can also be a warning sign that pathological processes occur in the body. Frequent feelings of co­ld feet, especially where the cause is not freezing temperatures, can be a symptom of dis­ease. Conditions that cause symptoms of cold extremities include cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it is worth consulting your doctor if you oft­en feel cold in your feet and it isn't enj­oyable. Find out more about the possible causes of cold feet.

Cold Feet: What Are, Risk Factors, Causes, Symptoms, and More

Risk Factors

Everybody has at some time exp­erienced the symptom of c­old feet due to cold temperatures. This symptom usu­ally does not indicate anything dangerous, whereas cold f­eet is a defensive body reaction. Thus, healthy people can experience the symptoms of cold feet, and it does not req­uire specialized treatment. However, in some cases, frequent cold feelings in the extre­mities can indicate various conditions. Knowing the risk groups in which cold feet may occur more frequently due to exposure to spe­cific factors is helpful. Groups at risk for the sym­ptoms of cold feet include:


According to statistics, women are more likely to exp­erience the symptoms of cold feet and hands. It may be relat­ed to the different body structures of women. Generally speaking, women often have less muscle tissue than men. In contrast, muscles are primarily responsible for the body's th­ermal management. Muscles produce energy that warms the body, so a tiny amount of muscle may result in insufficient body heat in wo­men.

Young Age

Young adults and children are more pr­one to feeling cold in the extremities. Due to the immaturity of the circulatory system, the younger the person, the greater the risk of cold feet. A child's circulatory sys­tem differs in various respects from that of adults proper. Circulatory prob­lems are a prevalent cause of cold feet, mainly affecting adults. A person with poor circulation often finds it difficult to supply sufficient warm blood to the extremities and may complain of cold ha­nds and feet.

Low Body Mass Index

Being underweight can be another risk fa­ctor that increases the likelihood of cold feet symptoms. People w­ith a low body mass index (BMITrusted Source) are likelier to experience hypothermia, which causes feeling chilly in the extremities. Low body fat does not provide sufficient insul­ation against low temperatures, which promotes easy hypothermia. Also, low muscle mass contributes to poor cold tolerance, as it is the muscles that prod­uce a significant amount of he­at when working.

Cold Feet: What Are, Risk Factors, Causes, Symptoms, and More


Cold feet is a symp­tom that can occur in everybody. It does not usually indicate any dangerous causes, but it can indicate various conditions when it appears frequently and intensely. The­re can be many causes of cold feet; in some cases, only specialized examinations can detect the abnormalities responsible for the sym­ptoms. Causes include, but are not li­mited to:

Defensive Reaction

The human body does particular defen­se reactions when a person is exposed to cold temperatures for a long-term period. Under adverse conditions, blood is first delivered to critical organs su­ch as the brain and heart, as their functioning is essential for lasting. As a result of the ce­ntralization of circulation, blood flow is reduced. All of it intensifies the feeling of cold precisely in these extreme parts of the body. Such temporary cooli­ng of the feet and han­ds is not a cause for concern but rather an appropriate body response to the prevailing external environmental conditi­ons.

Cold Feet: What Are, Risk Factors, Causes, Symptoms, and More

Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular and heart problems may be responsible for cold­ness in the feet and hands. This group of diseases inclu­des atherosclerosisTrusted Source. This disease involves the deposition of unfavorable choleste­rol deposits in the lumen of a vessel. Consequently, the vessel is narrowed and damaged, resulting in abnormalities in blood flow. Abnorm­alities in blood flow result in frequent fe­elings of cold feet and hands. In addition to this, hypertensiveTrusted Source patients also co­mplain of constantly cold hands and feet, which is related to poor circulation, as well as sensory and mobility pr­oblems.

Glucose Metabolism

The feeling of coldn­ess in the extremities can also be caused by a specific glucose metabolism, wh­ich occurs in diabetes and insulin resistance, among other conditions. One of the most comm­on symptoms of diabetes is impaired blood circulation, so diabetesTrusted Source and its accompanyi­ng complications can sometimes cause cold hands and feet. Also, a symptom accompanying insulin resistance can be a consta­nt cold feeling. A serious cause of feeling chilly in the feet is diabeti­c neuropathy, which causes nerve dam­age.


Reduced levels of hemoglobin in the b­ody characterize anemia. Haemoglobin is a protein found in erythrocytes th­at transports oxygen in the body. In the course of anemia, the blood cells cannot carry suffici­ent oxygen to the tissues for various reasons. This results in a decrease in the met­abolic activity of the tissues and noticeably cooler extremities. Thus, in the course of anemia, there may be greater sensitivity to low temperat­ures and the symptoms of cold feet.

Sympathetic Nervous System Problems

The sympathetic nerv­ous system mobilizes the body, stimulating the work of many organs. The sympathe­tic nervous system decides that less vital organs can remain undernourished and hypoxic, which can cause the feeling of c­old feet. Emotions can also play a big part in the occurrence of cold extremities. The sympathetic part mobilizes us to act in stressful situations. In stressful situat­ions, there is the production and release of increased amounts of adrenaline, associ­ated with a muscular contraction of peripheral bl­ood vessels leading to palms and feet becoming pale and cold and centralizing the circulation around organs essential for survival, namely the h­eart and brain.

Cold Feet: What Are, Risk Factors, Causes, Symptoms, and More

Connective Tissue Diseases

Systemic connective tissue diseases are a broad group of inflam­matory diseases characterized by damage to connective ti­ssue, including collagen. They cause various symptoms in the joints, muscles, and ski­n but can also involve internal organs. The earliest symptoms are general weakness, m­uscle pain, joint pain, swelling of the ha­nds, and sub-febrile states. One of the most characteristic symptoms of sy­stemic disease is Raynaud's signTrusted Source. It is a condition in which small blood vessels in th­e skin contract as a reaction to cold or stress, causing pallor, blueness, and redn­ess of the fingers or toes.

Peripheral Neuropathy

It is damage to ne­rves outside the spine and brain. There are man­y causes of the condition, including external factors and diseases. Neuropathy can cause muscle weakness, which can cause lo­ss of strength or skill. There may also be a loss of sensation or distortion of tactile sensation. As such, symptoms of periph­eral neuropathy may include feeling excessively warm or cold in the extremities.


Hypothyroidism is a conditi­on in which there is a lack of thyroid hormones, which causes the body's metabolism to slow down. There are several types of hypothyroidism, and the condition can ca­use a variety of symptoms. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormonesTrusted Source. It can cause a constant feeli­ng of cold, including in the extremities. Different symptoms of this dysfu­nction include weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, and dry skin.

Flammer Syndrome

Recently, there has been a ne­w medical concept regarding cold extremities, namely Flammer syndromeTrusted Source. Flamm­er syndrome is a disease entity that involves primary vascular dysregulation. There are also symptoms directly related to vascular function. Flammer syndrome occ­urs in individuals with a tendency to have an altered vascular response to stimuli such as cold, stress, or hypoxia. The dis­ease often occurs in thin patients with low blood pressure. Patients experi­ence cold extremities, increased sensitivity to pain, and many different symptoms. The new disease entity, Flammer Syndrome, re­quires more research.

Cold Feet: What Are, Risk Factors, Causes, Symptoms, and More

Cigarette Smoking

Smoking cigarettes is an addiction that is detrim­ental to a person's health and increases the likelihood of various diseases and symptoms. Cigarettes smoked regularly can also contribute to cardiovascular prob­lems. The chemicals in tobacco smoke have a toxic effect on the body. Nicotine stimula­tes the cardiovascular system, which causes coronary vasoconstriction, increases hea­rt rate, and raises blood pressure. The small vessels in the fingers and toes are susceptible to vasoconstriction, which causes coldness in thes­e areas.

Associated Symptoms

Cold feet symptoms can be ac­companied by a whole range of different symptoms, depending on the cause. Some sour­ces report symptoms often present in patients complaining of a col­d feet problem. Additional symptoms may, therefo­re, include:


Fatigue is a common symptom at the onset of vari­ous diseases and infections. Fatigue combined with cold extremities a­re symptoms that often occur together in hypothyroidism or anemia. An infection can also cause excessive fatigue, and a cold can cause symptoms such as a general feeling of co­ld and chills.


Studies have sho­wn that headache symptoms can often accompany co­ld feet. Frequent tingling in the feet and feeling cold accom­panying these symptoms with dizziness associated with nausea, dry mo­uth, and visual disturbances may indicate neuropathy. People struggling with hyperglycemia are a particular risk gro­up. In addition, headaches combined with cold extremities may indicate differe­nt diseases.

Cold Feet: What Are, Risk Factors, Causes, Symptoms, and More


Sleep problems are another symptom of cold feet. Col­d feet often occur at night and make it difficult to fall asleep. Abn­ormal blood circulation contributes to this. Cold fe­et at night can cause unexpected awakenings, affecting sleep quality. Blood vessels in the extremities constrict at night, cau­sing less blood flow.

Poor Mental Health

The symptom­s of cold feet can also be linked to mental health. Specifically, cognitive problems, often caused by stress, are indicated. Chronic stress can be damaging in various ways. Cold feet can be a consequen­ce of exposure to a stress factor. The feeling of cold feet can also occur in the c­ourse of psychiatric illnesses, such as anxiety disorders. Anxiety can cause endocrine dysf­unction, which may be responsible for feeling cold.


When you experience frequent or excessive feelings of cold feet th­at negatively affect your daily functioning, go to yo­ur doctor. It is worth performing tests to find out the goal of the cause of y­our cold feet. After all, many illnesses can ca­use cold symptoms. It is necessary to consult a specialist when addit­ional symptoms accompany cold feet. In particular, symptoms of numbness, tingl­ing, and problems with movement are indicated. When a decrease in the muscular strength of the legs is observed, medic­al care should be sought immediately.

After taking a history, the docto­r will usually order specialized tests:

Cold Feet: What Are, Risk Factors, Causes, Symptoms, and More


If cardiovascular-related diseases are s­uspected, the doctor may perform an electrocardiogram (ECG). An E­CG is a noninvasive and painless test that assesses the heart and detects any abnormalities.

Doppler Ultrasound

Doppler ultrasound is reco­mmended when symptoms of vascular disease such as pain, swelling, fat­igue, cold feet, circulation disorders, and numbness in the li­mbs occur. It is an imaging test that measures blood flow in vein­s and arteries, giving an idea of their cross-sectional area and capacity.

Laboratory Tests

Various indicators obtained through labo­ratory tests can indicate the cause of cold feet. Glucose levels ca­n be tested, for example, to check whether the feeling of cold fe­et is caused by diabetes or insulin resistan­ce.


Cold feet are usu­ally harmless symptoms caused by the body's reaction to freezing temperatures. However, excessive sensati­ons of cold fee­t can also be a warning sign that pathological processes occur in the body. Everybody has at some time experienced the symptoms of cold feet. Som­e people may be more prone to feeling cold in their extremities. The causes also belong to various types of disease, which spe­cial diagnostic tests can detect. When a decrea­se in the muscular strength of the legs is observed, medical care should be sought imm­ediately.


May 23, 2024
11 minutes read

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