Cold Feet, Cold Toes: Causes, Treatment, and Diagnosis

In this article, we will go into detail about the causes of cold feet and when you need to see…(continue reading)

There are many reasons why someone might have cold feet. It could be due to the weather, poor circulation, Raynaud’s phenomenon, or diabetes among several other causes.

In most cases, cold feet are nothing to worry about and can be easily remedied. However, cold feet can also be a symptom of a more serious condition.

In this article, we will go into detail about the causes of cold feet and when you need to see your doctor.

We will also discuss how your doctor will diagnose the underlying condition and how to properly care for your feet to avoid this and other foot complications.

Why do I have cold feet?

The temperature is not the only reason you may be experiencing cold feet as there are a few different causes of it.

Poor circulation is one of the most common causes, as it can prevent blood from reaching the extremities.

The lack of blood flow can be due to an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, or simply from sitting or standing in one place for too long.

Other causes range from Raynaud’s disease to anemia which is why it is important to understand if any underlying conditions may be causing your feet to be cold as treatments can vary.

If you have cold feet and do not believe it is caused by the temperature, please see your doctor for a possible diagnosis of the cause.

How does diabetes cause cold feet?

One of the most common causes of cold feet is poor blood flow which can be a result of diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus.

When you have diabetes, your body has difficulty using insulin to convert blood sugar called glucose into energy which can lead to nerve damage and circulatory issues.

The type of nerve damage is called diabetic neuropathy or peripheral neuropathy and is caused by high blood sugar levels over a long period of time.

The most common symptoms include loss of feeling, diabetic foot ulcers, infections, and sharp pains.

The numbness may make your feet seem cold although they have a normal temperature if you touch them.

Diabetes also puts you at risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD), also called peripheral arterial disease, although you can also get PAD if you do not have diabetes.

Peripheral artery disease causes poor circulation by narrowing the blood vessels that carry blood to your limbs and the symptoms can include cold feet as well as cramping, pain, or weakness in your legs among others.

Michigan Medicine – Diabetes and Foot Health

What are other causes of cold feet?

There are many different causes of cold feet besides cold temperatures and diabetes which is why it is important to speak with your doctor if you experience this symptom on a regular basis. Other medical conditions that can cause cold feet include:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you do not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body and the symptoms can include cold feet as well as fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, and dizziness.

Raynaud’s disease

Also called Raynaud’s phenomenon, Raynaud’s disease is a condition that causes the blood vessels in your extremities such as your fingers and toes to narrow in response to cold temperatures or stress which can decrease blood flow and cause cold feet.

Your hands and feet may turn pale and then blue and it is caused by cold temperatures, stress, and anxiety.

Frostbite

Frostbite is a cold-related injury that occurs when your skin and the tissue underneath it freezes and it can cause permanent damage.

The symptoms of frostbite include cold feet as well as numbness, hard or waxy-looking skin, and pain.

Hypothyroidism

If you have an underactive thyroid it is called hypothyroidism.

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck and it produces hormones that help regulate your body’s metabolism.

When you have hypothyroidism, it means that your thyroid is not making enough hormones and its symptoms can include cold feet as well as fatigue, weight gain, constipation, and depression.

Stress or anxiety

When you are stressed or anxious your body produces adrenaline which can cause the blood vessels to constrict in your extremities as your body keeps your blood in your core which can cause cold feet as well as cold hands, sweating, and a rapid heartbeat.

Sitting or standing for long periods of time

If you sit or stand in one place for too long it can cause your feet to swell resulting in reduced blood flow that makes your feet feel cold.

It is especially common if you are on a long airplane flight, road trip, or living a sedentary lifestyle.

Buerger’s disease

Also called thromboangiitis obliterans, Buerger’s disease is a rare condition linked to tobacco use that causes your blood vessels to swell and blood clots to form in the arteries and veins of your extremities.

The symptoms of Buerger’s disease include cold feet as well as pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands or feet.

High cholesterol

High cholesterol is a condition in which you have too much cholesterol in your blood and it can cause the arteries to narrow and harden which decreases blood flow and can make your feet feel cold.

High cholesterol can also have no symptoms so it is important to get your cholesterol checked regularly by your doctor.

When do I need to see a doctor about cold feet?

You need to see your doctor if you experience cold feet on a regular basis or if cold feet are accompanied by other symptoms such as the following:

If you are experiencing cold feet regularly accompanied by these symptoms please see your doctor, podiatrist (foot doctor), or health care provider for a diagnosis.

How does a doctor diagnose the cause of cold feet?

If you have cold feet on a regular basis it is important to speak with your doctor as they will be able to determine the cause and provide treatment.

Your doctor will ask about your medical history and symptoms and they may also order tests such as blood tests, imaging tests, or nerve conduction studies.

An electrocardiogram (EKG) may also be ordered to check your heart as it can be the cause of circulation issues.

Finally, an ankle-brachial index test may also be administered which is a test that measures the blood pressure in your ankles and compares it to the blood pressure in your arms to see if there are any discrepancies.

What are the best ways to treat cold feet?

There are several things you can do at home to treat cold feet and they include:

  • Moving your body to warm up your feet such as running or even walking around
  • Putting on warm socks or slippers
  • Soaking your feet in a foot bath with warm water although if you have foot ulcers or other foot injuries you may need to avoid this method, or soaking your feet in general
  • Using a heating pad

If your cold feet are caused by an underlying condition, then your doctor will suggest a treatment plan to help alleviate symptoms which could include lifestyle changes such as exercise or taking prescribed medications.

What are the best ways to prevent cold feet?

There are several things you can do to prevent cold feet such as:

Treating any underlying condition is important in preventing cold feet so be sure to see your doctor regularly and take any prescribed medications.

If you have cold feet on a regular basis, speak with your doctor as they will be able to help determine the cause of it and provide treatment to alleviate your symptoms.

Summary

Cold feet can be caused by a variety of things besides cold temperatures including poor circulation and nerve damage. If you have cold feet often that are accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to see your doctor as they will be able to determine the cause and provide treatment options.

There are several things you can do at home to treat cold feet such as putting on warm socks, using a heating pad, or taking a warm foot bath among others.

You can also prevent cold feet by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, wearing socks and shoes that keep your feet warm, and taking any prescribed medications for underlying conditions.

If you have cold feet on a regular basis or have any more questions, speak with your doctor, podiatrist, or health care provider as they will be able to help determine the cause and provide treatment options.

References and sources:

Mayo Clinic 

CDC

MedicalNewsToday 

WebMD

Healthline

American Diabetes Association

Diabetes UK 

Fact Checked and Editorial Process

Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Jacqueline Hensler and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera. 

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