29th May 2023
What Causes Cold Hands and Feet? 8 Potential CausesDr. Jill Barat, PharmD
Occasionally having cold hands and feet are a totally normal part of being human, and we’re not talking about being nervous before taking big life steps...
But if there is a drastic change in how your feet and hands feel, or if it goes long-term, there may be something else going on other than just a drafty window or a particularly cold winter.
In this article, we will cover some of the potential reasons for feeling like your hands and feet are perpetually cold, and help guide you in the right direction if you should get it checked out.
1. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormones that it is supposed to produce.
This leads to disruptions in things in your body that the gland is supposed to be regulating with these hormones, including your heart, body temperature, energy levels, and metabolism.
This may cause your whole body to feel cold even if most other people feel comfortable.
Testing for thyroid conditions can be done by a routine blood test by your general doctor. If it comes back that your thyroid hormones are low they can be replaced by taking a thyroid prescription.
If you feel like these signs of hypothyroidism sound like what you are dealing with, schedule an appointment with your doctor and they can rule out (or rule in) a thyroid disorder causing your cold extremities.
2. Peripheral arterial disease
Peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, is a progressive narrowing of the arteries that feed oxygenated blood to your arms, legs, stomach, and head, and the first symptom may be feeling like your hands and feet are always cold, or pain in the legs when walking.
This narrowing develops from plaque overgrowths in the vessels, so planning a healthy diet and exercise routine is ideal for lessening the impact of PAD.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose if you have PAD and may recommend lifestyle changes or medications to treat PAD.
3. Peripheral neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves in the periphery of the body, including the arms, legs, feet, and hands.
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include tingling, numbness, burning, freezing, weakness, or pain.
While this occurs more commonly in those with diabetes due to the nerves being damaged by excess glucose, peripheral nerve damage can develop in those that do not have diabetes as well.
If you do have diabetic peripheral neuropathy, there are medications that may help you with the related nerve pain, such as Gabapentin.
4. Raynaud’s disease
Raynaud’s disease is a condition where the smaller vessels in parts of the body like the fingers, toes, nose, or ears constrict too much when it is cold or you are stressed.
This causes a characteristic strange color succession of fingers or toes turning white from vessel constriction, then blue from lack of oxygen, then red when the vessels open back up and blood floods in.
Anemia occurs when you do not have enough red blood cells in your body to sufficiently carry oxygen throughout your body.
And, since your fingers and toes are placed furthest from the center of your body, they may be the first to signal the lack of adequate oxygen by feeling very cold often.
Anemia can be diagnosed by a simple blood test through your doctor and may be able to be corrected by supplementing with iron, B12, or other vitamins and minerals which you are lacking.
When you are constantly anxious or stressed, your body responds by producing adrenaline, or your “fight or flight” chemicals.
When you are constantly in fight or flight mode, your body constricts your vessels to try and ready you for action as well as to retain the majority of your blood centrally near your vital organs – just in case.
You may discover that during times of high stress or anxiety your hands and feet feel colder than usual.
Talk to your doctor about healthy stress-relieving techniques or medications that can help you relax more.
7. Sedentary lifestyle
If your hands and feet commonly feel cold towards the end of your workday, or when you have been watching Netflix all Sunday – it could be happening from lack of movement.
Your circulation is better when you move around regularly, so if you know you are going to be working on that spreadsheet all Monday for 8 hours, schedule in a few walk breaks to make sure you keep your blood flowing and your hands and feet warm.
8. Using tobacco products
Tobacco products aren’t just awful for your lungs, they can cause your small vessel to constrict and make it so that the necessary amount of blood and oxygen is not getting to where it needs to go.
If you are a smoker and experiencing cold hands and feet, take note of when your feet and hands are the coldest as it may coincide with your smoking habits.
It may be time to add “better circulation for warmer hands and feet” to your list of pros for quitting nicotine products.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.