Cold feet – can it be serious?

Sometimes your feet just can’t seem to warm up, no matter how many pairs of wool socks you wear. If you’re relatively healthy, chances are the cause of your cold feet is likely something harmless.

The simplest reason is a lack of warmth. Another common reason is poor circulation, when not enough blood is getting to your feet to keep them warm. This can be caused by your bad lifestyle if you spend much of your day sitting at a desk. Your remedy is to get up more frequently and move around throughout the day. Circulation issues can also be caused by underlying health problems.

Here’s a look at some of the more serious reasons you may be suffering from feet that always seem to be cold:

Raynaud’s disease

Raynaud’s disease typically causes your fingers and toes to feel cold and numb, usually when they’re exposed to cold temperatures or even stress. The small arteries that bring blood to your skin become narrow, limiting circulation in some areas.

Raynaud’s disease (also called Raynaud’s syndrome or phenomenon) is more common in women and in people who live in colder climates.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition when your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough of the hormone that is included in many important body processes. The symptoms are subtle and come on slowly.

Hypothyroidism symptoms include sensitivity to cold, as well as fatigue, weight gain and memory problems. Your skin might feel cool, dry and itchy.

Anemia

Anemia is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. The most common symptom of anemia is feeling weak and tired, but other symptoms include cold hands and feet, as well as dizziness, shortness of breath, headache and pale skin.

Peripheral arterial disease

Also known as peripheral vascular disease, atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, this common condition occurs when cholesterol, fat or some other substances build up in the walls of the arteries. These deposits form hard structures called plaques and cause the walls of the arteries to narrow.

It can take years for the walls of the arteries to harden and years for symptoms to show. Typically, the earliest signs are leg discomfort, pain and cramping. Other symptoms include cool skin in the feet and redness or pain in the feet and toes.

Talk to your doctor if you are having symptoms. Treatment depends on how far the disease has advanced and can include lifestyle changes and medication.

Diabetic nerve damage

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can happen to people with diabetes who have chronically high blood sugar. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, burning, pain and a feeling of coldness in the feet, legs or hands. Symptoms are typically worse at night, says Diabetes Monitor.

Avoid soaking your feet in hot water to warm them up (you may not realize the water is too hot). Instead, always wear warm socks, even to bed, and use an electric blanket at night. It’s also a good idea to exercise regularly and wiggle your toes and feet when sitting to help with circulation.

Smoking

Circulation issues caused by smoking can result in cold feet. One such rare, but serious, complication includes Buerger’s disease, which affects blood vessels in the arms and legs. The blood vessels swell, which can prevent blood flow and can cause clots to form, according to the CDC. Early symptoms include cold hands and feet, but can lead to tissue damage, pain and painful sores, ulcers and even gangrene.

Cold feet can be uncomfortable, and in some cases, a sign that something more serious is going on. Be sure to check with your doctor if you think this might be the case.

And have a hot tea!

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