There can be a variety of reasons for cold feet, from winter temperatures to circulation and nerve disorders.
Cold feet are one of the body's normal reactions to colder temperatures. When the body enters a colder area, blood vessels in the extremities, such as the hands and feet, will constrict. This reduces the blood flow to these areas, which also reduces the amount of heat the body loses.
The extremities are the parts of the body furthest from the vital organs, so reducing blood flow to the extremities also helps keep warmth and blood flow in the more important body parts.
Over time this reduced blood flow can cause decreased oxygen in the tissues, which may cause them to take on a bluish color. When temporary, these symptoms are not usually serious, and the body will return to normal as it warms up again.
Some people have Raynaud's phenomenon, where exposure to cold temperatures or high stress causes them to experience limited blood circulation, resulting in cold or numb fingers and toes.
Being in a state of high stress or anxiety may also cause cold feet. One of the body's natural responses to stress or nervousness is to pump adrenaline into the bloodstream.
As it circulates, adrenaline causes the blood vessels at the periphery to constrict, which decreases the flow of blood to the outermost areas of the body. This response reserves energy and prepares for any bodily harm that may happen, as a result of the high-stress situation.
The modern world is full of stressors, but not many of them put the body at immediate risk, so this protective response may be more harmful than helpful if it is making the feet or hands cold regularly. Reducing stress and tension may help reduce symptoms in these cases.
Circulation issues are a very common cause of cold feet. A person with poor circulation will often struggle to get enough warm blood to their extremities, and may complain of cold hands and cold feet frequently.
Poor circulation can have a variety of causes. Living a sedentary lifestyle or sitting at a desk all day may reduce circulation to the legs and cause cold feet.
High cholesterol can lead to plaques forming inside the arteries that can reduce circulation to the legs and feet, leading to cold feet.
Some heart conditions can also cause cold feet, so a person should speak to their doctor about any existing heart problems or risk factors.
People with diabetes may be at risk of circulation problems, such as cold feet or hands.
Frequent high blood sugar levels can lead to narrowing of the arteries and a reduced blood supply to the tissues, which may cause cold feet.
In some people, diabetes can lead to diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a form of nerve damage. Diabetic nerve damage typically happens in people who have an uncontrolled, high blood sugar level for long periods of time.
As simple as it seems, getting up and moving may be one of the easiest ways to warm the body and help blood flow to and from the feet.
People who experience cold feet due to their desk job may benefit from getting up periodically and walking around the office.
Getting blood circulating using cardio activities, such as jogging or even doing jumping jacks, may be enough to keep the feet warm throughout the day.
Warm, well-insulated socks are important for people with cold feet. While indoors, it may also help to wear well-insulated slippers, especially if a person does not have carpeted or heated floors.
Keeping the feet bundled up is a great way to help them stay warm and prevent any additional heat loss.
For people who have trouble sleeping due to cold feet, placing a heating pad or hot water bottle at the foot of the bed can keep the area surrounding the feet warm at bedtime
Getting cold feet from time to time is perfectly normal. Persistent symptoms may be something to discuss with a doctor, but treating the underlying cause should help the feet return a better temperature.
In the meantime, taking immediate steps, such as wearing thick socks or using a hot footbath, can help warm the feet up quickly.