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Are your feet permanently cold?

Man with naked legs and bare feet standing on snow

As we write, there’s yet another storm thrashing about outside, making the windows rattle in their frames. Though we haven’t seen much snow (yet), Mother Nature is certainly not letting us forget that winter is with us.

Some people feel the cold more than others. Women tend to feel it more than men, for example, as their resting temperature is inherently a few degrees lower than that of the average man. However, there will be caveats to this; if someone works outside, for example, they will become more acclimatised to a lower temperature over time, and an individual’s metabolism may be wildly different to the next.

It’s usually in our extremities where we feel the cold if the temperature drops—like our fingers, toes and nose. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, our bodies, when it’s cold, place more priority on keeping our organs warm and functioning well, and they may divert the blood flow from our fingers and toes to our livers and kidneys as a result. In response to a cold temperature, the blood vessels in our hands and feet also constrict—this is to contain any heat loss.

As mentioned above, people who are constantly exposed to cold temperatures—such as skiing coaches, mountain climbers, or those working in industrial freezers within the food industry—may find that the cells/nerves within their hands and feet become permanently damaged, which can cause tingling and pain sensations. Frostbite may even set in—the damage from which could turn your toes black, which could lead to their amputation.

Similar symptoms could occur if your feet are continually submerged in water. Often referred to as ‘trench foot’, due to the number of soldiers in WW1 who suffered from it, continuous exposure to waterlogged or damp environments could result in nerve damage and gangrenous digits.

These are extremes, of course. But, if the coldness of your feet is not related to your job and they feel numb/cold even if there’s a heatwave outside, it’s worth seeking medical advice to ensure the reason is not one of the following conditions.

A lack of iron, i.e. anaemia, can prevent your blood vessels from carrying oxygen effectively, with your fingers and toes being the parts of your body that are commonly missed out. A deficiency of Vitamin B-12 could also bring about the same.

Other conditions that impact the effectiveness of your body’s blood flow, such as heart disease and damage to this organ, will present the same symptoms of cold hands and feet, as well as sores/cuts that take longer than normal to heal and a numbness in your legs. The same goes for diabetes, as this can affect the circulation of your blood.

Problems with your thyroid can result in cold feet and hands. Your thyroid is responsible for, amongst other things, regulating your body’s temperature. If you have poor thyroid function, you will likely have perpetually cold extremities.

Raynaud’s syndrome is another condition that presents cold hands and feet. This disease causes your arteries to narrow, which affects the oxygenation of your hands and feet; a lack of oxygen means they will feel colder.

Most of these conditions are easy to treat, but don’t take the risk of self-diagnosing your complaint. Call 01226 492412 (Wombwell) or 0113 238 0330 (Morley) to book an appointment with a qualified podiatrist.


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