So your feet are cold… Thanks to jolly old England both my feet and hands are currently cold! The temperature here is ridiculous… feels like am doing the ice challenge some days, and it’s worse as Christmas draws near. But that’s not the only reason why one could have cold feet.
There are a number of reasons why someone would have cold feet, and in some cases, it can be a sign of a serious problem. I’ll highlight a number of issues to help you determine whether you need to seek medical attention, or wear thicker socks.
Is It A Problem?
It can be! As the temperature drops, especially in the winter, the body draws blood from the extremities to maintain the core body temperature and sustain life. However, this can be a serious problem over a long period of time. This could lead to frostbite or even amputation if the tissue is not re-warmed, and circulation not re-established properly and promptly.
Cold feet can also be a sign of a medical problem. Many cardiovascular concerns, diabetes and other health problems can cause cold feet. The severity of these problems can vary, but some can be quite serious. Those who suspect that their cold feet are the result of a health problem, should consult their doctor immediately.
The most obvious cause of cold feet is the surrounding environment. When the temperature gets colder, people routinely experience problems with cold extremities.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is more common in women and is a circulation disorder that causes the blood vessels in the fingers and toes to tighten when they are exposed to stressors. This leads to the hands and feet feeling cold, or becoming sensitive to the cold. The cause of Raynaud’s phenomenon is not always known and may possibly be a side effect of other conditions. People with the disorder may experience numbness or tingling in their fingers and toes. They may also notice that their skin turns pale or blue, followed by reddening in the affected areas. This may last a few minutes to several hours, and gradual warming of the fingers and toes helps to restore blood flow to the area.
Buerger’s disease is a condition that is related to smoking, that has been tied to Raynaud’s Phenomenon. The disease causes swelling in some of the blood vessels in the feet and legs. Smoking causes tightening of the blood vessels, but for people with this disease, the tightening can become so severe that it damages or destroys skin tissue, which can lead to infection or even gangrene. People with Buerger’s disease should stop smoking completely to improve blood circulation.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Peripheral vascular disease causes the blood vessels of the periphery (the feet in this case) to narrow and harden. The narrowing of the vessels leads to decreased blood flow and can cause cold feet. The vessels become narrowed by the build up of plaque in the vessels, mainly the arteries. Those who are most at risk for developing peripheral vascular disease are those who smoke, or have health problems like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease or have had a stroke.
Other rare problems that can cause cold feet include hormone abnormalities, autoimmune disorders, and medication side effects. Problems with the heart itself can also cause cold feet, but it’s rare for this to be the only symptom a person experiences.
It is dependent on the cause. If the cause is environmental, something as simple as wearing an extra pair of socks, or socks designed for extremely cold temperatures can help warm feet. If the cause of cold feet is vascular, a vascular surgeon can prescribe treatment based upon the severity of the condition. Once the problem that is reducing blood flow is solved, cold feet should resolve themselves.
Preventing cold feet can often be easier said than done. It may not be possible to completely prevent vascular problems as there is a genetic component.
Cold feet are not always the end of the world, but they can be bothersome and they can definitely be a sign of a bigger cardiac or vascular problem. If environmental causes are ruled out, see a doctor as soon as possible, to treat the underlying problem and hopefully to return to a better and warmer quality of life.
If visiting a cold country over the holidays, ensure you wear proper footwear and thick socks to protect your feet.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!