Why are my feet so cold?

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WE live on a beautiful tropical island and unless you live in mountainous areas, temperatures rarely drop below 28 degrees.

So why do some people have feet that feel like they are living in Northern Europe during the winter?

If there is a drop in atmospheric temperature the body will draw blood from the extremities to maintain the core temperature to sustain life. This is normal but in some people this can indicate an underlying condition.

In this article I will discuss the most common medical reasons for abnormally cold feet.


Raynaud’s disease

This is a rare condition where the blood vessels in the extremities of the body react by constricting when faced with temperature reductions or stress. The temperature changes can be minor but the reaction can be very major with the fingers and toes turning very pale or even blue in fair-skinned people.

This occurs because the blood is unable to reach the surface of the skin. When reaction is resolved, the skin tends to be red and tingly. In severe cases gangrene may occur.


Peripheral neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when nerves have been damaged. The most common cause is diabetes, a lack of vitamin B12, trauma and alcoholism. The feet may feel numb and painful. Patients often complain about feeling pins and needles, burning and cold.


Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

Peripheral arterial disease is the narrowing of the arteries in the body and is most commonly found in the feet and legs. It is caused by atherosclerosis, which is the build-up of plaque inside the arteries.

The plaque is made of cholesterol, calcium, fat and other substances. As the vessels narrow, blood cannot reach the feet and they become cold and cyanotic. People who smoke and are diabetic can be at high risk of developing PAD.



Anaemia is a deficiency in the number or quality of the red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body using the protein haemoglobin. When anaemia occurs, patients will feel tired, weak, fatigued and may have cold extremities.



Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is underactive. The thyroid gland regulates the body’s metabolism and when the levels are low, patients may be subjected to tiredness, constipation, weightgain and an inability to tolerate cold temperatures, leading to cold feet.

In conclusion, if your feet are generally cold, it may be nothing. However, it is always worth consulting your medical practioner to rule out an underlying condition.


Angela Davis BSc (Hons) DPodM MChS is a podiatrist with offices in Montego Bay (293- 7119), Mandeville (962-2100), Ocho Rios (974-6339), Kingston (978-8392), and Savanna-la-Mar (955-3154). She is a member of the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom.

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