What’s Causing My Cold Hands and Feet? | Ask the Doctor
Why Am I Always Cold?
Imagine this: You're at the office and, before you know it, have to around you in order to stay warm. Or you step outside and have to run back in for a jacket even though your friend is perfectly fine. If you feel like you’re , it’s worth understanding why that might be the case. Here are some common reasons women find themselves with chattering teeth and frozen fingers more often than not.
It's no coincidence that the women in the office are the ones shivering and the men are perfectly fine. A 2015 study published in the journalNaturefound that while men were comfortable at 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit, women needed the thermostat adjusted about 5 degrees higher to feel the same.
Unfortunately, most buildings are outdated, meaning they primarily cater to men. “Temperatures were engineered and designed based on studies in the 1960s, and it took into account male metabolic rates because at that time there were more men employed than women,” says Rob Danoff, D.O., program director for family practice residency at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia. So unless you can convince your building manager to up their heat, you may want to keep that space heater under your desk — and maybe invest in this foot warmer heating pad.
2. Lack of sleep.
Not getting enough quality shuteye can also make you feel cold. “If [you're] not getting the rest [you] need, your body then is not healing itself and it comes under stress,” says Dr. Danoff. Research backs him up: A study published in the journalSleepfound that even one night of sleep deprivation made patients more vulnerable to heat loss. Doctors aren’t quite clear on how or why the body’s thermoregulation changes during sleep — they just know that it does — but you may be able to stop your shivering by simply getting more Z's.
If constantly feeling cold is new, take a look at your medicine cabinet. Some stimulants can make your hands and feet feel cold due to poor circulation in the extremities, says Dr. Danoff. Certain blood pressure medications, like Propanolol, can have a similar effect, according to the Mayo Clinic. Bring up your symptoms at your next doctor's appointment, as they may be able to suggest an alternative option.
When your hands and feet are the areas that are primarily cold — and it's extreme enough that they turn white, maybe even blue, and go numb — it could be Raynaud’s disease. The Mayo Clinic says that for people who have this condition, arteries to the fingers and toes sometimes spasm, in turn narrowing blood vessels and temporarily limiting blood supply. The spasms are often triggered when exposing yourself to cold conditions, like when you put your hand in a freezer or walk into air conditioning, says Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone.
While it may take longer for you to warm up — the Mayo Clinic says it could take 15 minutes for normal blood flow to return — the good news is that most cases of Raynaud's are mild enough that they don't affect quality of life. It can be a symptom of other problems though, including some artery and connective tissue diseases, so it's worth speaking to your doctor about.
If you truly feel like you're cold way more than others, Nilem Patel, M.D., an endocrinologist at Adventist Health White Memorial in Los Angeles, says it's likely your doctor will want to check for hypothyroidism, a condition that develops when your thyroid doesn't produce enough hormones to regulate your body temperature. Weight gain and fatigue are other common complaints from patients, but it's difficult to diagnose based on a patient's description alone. “Oftentimes the symptoms are very vague,” she says, so you’ll need to go for testing in order to confirm the condition. It's not something you want to ignore either: the Mayo Clinic says that when hypothyroidism isn't treated, signs and symptoms can become more severe and may lead to other problems, including forgetfulness, depression, and a life-threatening version of advanced hypothyroidism known as myxedema.
Anemia is caused by a lack of hemoglobin and red blood cells, and can lead to exhaustion, weakness, headache, dizziness, pale skin, and — you guessed it — feeling cold, according to the Cleveland Clinic. (In severe cases, you may also feel faint or short of breath, Dr. Goldberg says.) While iron gets most of the attention when it comes to anemia, the disease can also result from not being able to absorb enough B12 or folic acid. This is definitely not something you want to mess around with, and your doctor can confirm the disease with a simple blood test.
7. Inadequate nutrition.
On a more macro scale, if you’re not getting enough daily nutrition — like when someone struggles with an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, for example — this can also lead to being cold. “Your body is going to be in conservation mode,” Dr. Patel says. In this situation, increasing the number of calories you’re eating is critical, otherwise your body will slowly begin to shut down. Talk to a doctor about potential treatment options that fit your particular situation.
Video: Why Are Some People Always Cold?
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