Ever since I was a teenager, I remember feeling chilled or cold in situations where other people didn’t seem to feel the same way. I grew up in New Jersey, known to have cold winters and hot, humid summers. My hands would be cool even in the summer months, which was a blessing I suppose, but I was donning gloves and warm socks long before winter set in.
I’ve met many people who complain they often have cold hands and feet, that they are hypersensitive to the cold, or that they need to dress in layers so they are always prepared. What could be the reason behind this chilliness?
Well, settle down with a hot cup of tea or coffee and check out the following eleven reasons that may explain why you feel chilly. If any of these reasons could apply to you, seek guidance from a knowledgeable healthcare provider.
1. Alcohol. The rush of warmth you feel when you first drink alcohol occurs because the blood vessels under your skin open up. After this initial warmth, your core temperature will decline and you can feel cold. Alcohol also suppresses a brain area that regulates your body temperature. Light drinking should have little impact on feeling cold, but if you are hypersensitive to the effects of alcohol, this may not be true for you.
2. Anemia. Insufficient levels of healthy red blood cells to deliver the oxygen your body is a classic sign of anemia, which tends to affect women more than men. One of the symptoms of anemia can be chilly hands and feet, as well as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Anemia can have various causes, so talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing symptoms. Among the more common causes are active bleeding (e.g., menstruation, chronic ulcers), iron deficiency, and B12 deficiency, all of which can be treated with supplements and diet.
3. Anorexia nervosa. Individuals with anorexia lose much of their body fat, which can result in them feeling cold all the time. This eating disorder is a life-threatening condition that requires health and well-being intervention.
4. Hypopituitarism. When the pituitary gland fails to produce enough of certain hormones, one consequence is feeling cold. Other indications of this relatively rare condition include loss of appetite, anemia, and weight loss. A doctor can test for hypopituitarism and provide treatment.
5. Hypothyroidism. Sometimes the thyroid gland nestled in the neck doesn’t produce sufficient levels of some hormones, which can result in hypersensitivity to cold. Other symptoms associated with hypothyroidism include dry skin, weight gain, constipation, and aching joints. This thyroid condition can have several causes, so see an expert to help figure it out and select the best treatment for you.
6. Kidney disease. The kidneys filter waste out of your blood, but if this process is compromised by disease, then your body temperature may lower. Kidney disease is also linked with several other conditions associated with feeling chilly, including diabetes and anemia. If you have either of these conditions, or if you have high blood pressure (which can cause kidney disease), check with your doctor to get a diagnosis.
7. Medications. Some medications and/or drugs can make you feel cold. Those in the first category include blood thinners (e.g., Coumadin), beta-blockers (e.g., atenolol, metoprolol), antipsychotics (e.g., perphenazine, pericyazine), morphine, and marijuana (not legal everywhere). You may need to request an alternative to a prescription medication that is causing you to feel cold but never go off your medication without consulting a medical professional.
8. Peripheral artery disease. An accumulation of plaque in your arteries can significantly restrict blood flow, which can result in cold extremities as well as numbness, weakness, and pain. This is a serious medical condition and requires emergency care. Lifestyle changes, including exercise and diet, can help, but you should discuss your individual needs with your doctor.
9. Peripheral neuropathy. If your feet feel cold but they don’t feel cold when you touch them, you may have peripheral neuropathy. This condition can be the result of diabetes, an injury, liver or kidney disease, infection, a vitamin deficiency, or chemical exposure. Your doctor should identify the cause and then you can discuss treatment options.
10. Raynaud’s phenomenon. People who have Raynaud’s phenomenon typically experience cold, numb, and even white or blue fingers and toes. That’s because the blood vessels overreact to stress or cold temperatures and become narrow, limiting the flow of blood. Once you get blood circulation restored, these extremities can become painful or tingle. Some natural remedies for Raynaud’s include ginger, niacin, and biofeedback, among others.
11. Type 2 diabetes. The presence of type 2 diabetes can make you feel cold for several reasons. For example, diabetes is often accompanied by kidney problems and anemia, poor circulation, and nerve damage, all of which can leave you wanting to put on another sweater. Keeping your blood sugar under control and addressing any other underlying health issues can help warm you up.