Cold Feet Symptoms

By Wendy Innes. May 7th 2016

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. Here you will find information about cold feet symptoms to help you determine whether you need to seek medical attention, or wear thicker socks.

Is It A Problem?

Cold feet can be pretty straightforward. As the temperature drops in the winter, the body draws blood from the extremities to maintain the core body temperature and sustain life. This is exactly what is supposed to happen. 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. However, there are several different medical problems that can cause cold feet as well.

Reynaud’s Phenomenon

Reynaud’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 Reynaud’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

Buerger's disease is a condition that is related to smoking, that has been tied to Reynaud’s Phenomenon. The disease causes swelling in some of the blood vessels in the feet and legs. This disorder is rare and it is more common in men aged 20-to-40 who smoke. 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 buildup 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.Treatment for peripheral vascular disease can include medication and surgery to clear blockages. Once the blockages are cleared, blood flow will improve, relieving cold feet.

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.


Treatment for cold feet depends upon its 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. Air activated foot warmers are also a great, inexpensive option for warming up cold feet. They slide inside of socks or shoes to provide warmth.

If the cause of cold feet is vascular, a cardiologist 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. If the problem is environmental, it’s as simple as wearing warmer socks, slippers, or using foot warmers. If the problem is vascular, preventing the vascular problem will prevent cold feet.

While it may not be possible to completely prevent vascular problems as there is a genetic component, by following these tips, people can greatly reduce their risk of developing vascular disease.

  • Eat a healthy diet low in fat, cholesterol and salt and rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein and fiber.
  • Exercise everyday
  • Get a checkup at least once a year
  • Quit smoking

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 return to a better and warmer quality of life.

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