Cold feet can have harmless but also pathological causes. What influence does blood pressure have and what measures can help.
In times of rising energy prices, many people turn down the heating in their apartment – cold feet are not uncommon. However, external influences such as cold or wet are not always the cause. Serious illnesses can also be behind it. You can find out what possible causes are here.
Harmless causes of cold feet
The most common cause of cold feet is reduced blood circulation. This can occur intentionally by the body – or due to external influences and illnesses.
Cold feet due to cold or wet conditions
When the outside temperature drops, it is crucial for the body to keep its core temperature – that is, the temperature of the upper body and head – constant at around 37 °C. In order to prevent the limbs from losing too much heat in cold weather, the smaller blood vessels in the skin, arms and legs contract. This causes blood circulation to temporarily decrease and the temperature in the extremities to drop. The result: The warm blood stays in the core of the body and hands and feet become cold.
Wetness can also cause feet to become cold. The reason is the so-called evaporative cooling. It occurs when moisture evaporates from the skin. Energy is removed from the skin in the form of heat.
Cold feet due to tight shoes and lack of exercise
The wrong choice of shoes can also lead to cold feet. If the shoes are too tight, it can pinch the veins and disrupt blood flow. The heat is conducted more poorly and your feet cool down.
Similar to tight shoes, little movement – for example by sitting for long periods in the office – can impair blood circulation in the legs and feet. This cools your feet. Sport , light exercise or temporary standing promote blood circulation and heat conduction.
Cold feet due to low blood pressure
A generally low blood pressure, called hypotension, can also be the cause of reduced blood flow to the feet. If the heart contracts less strongly, less warm, oxygen-rich blood reaches organs, muscles and more distant areas such as the feet.
Young, slim people – especially women – but also older people are often affected.
Permanently low blood pressure is not a disease in itself and is usually not dangerous. It is not yet known what causes it. In addition to cold feet and hands, chronically low blood pressure can also cause symptoms such as fatigue and dizziness.
Cold feet: These diseases can be behind it
If your feet are constantly cold, this can also be a symptom of a more serious illness – especially if causes such as cold or lack of exercise have been ruled out. Then, among other things, chronic circulatory problems or nerve damage can be hidden behind it.
Cause 1: Atherosclerosis and peripheral arterial disease
Atherosclerosis is a widespread vascular disease in which arteries narrow and harden over a long period of time due to pathological deposits . These deposits – the so-called plaques – narrow the blood vessels more and more over time, so that blood flow is disrupted. The result is circulatory problems and even complete vascular occlusion.
In principle, arteriosclerosis can occur in all blood vessels in the body – including the arteries of the legs. In this case we speak of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), also known as intermittent claudication.
Due to the narrowed blood vessels, the legs and feet have poorer blood circulation and are supplied with less oxygen. This can lead to permanently cold feet. Other symptoms include poor wound healing and pain during exertion and, in advanced cases, even at rest.
Certain factors influence the risk of developing arteriosclerosis. This includes:
- high (LDL) cholesterol or triglyceride levels in the blood (blood fat)
- high blood pressure
- Diabetes mellitus
- Nicotine consumption
- unhealthy diet
- long-term stress
- Hereditary predisposition
Cause 2: Raynaud’s syndrome
Raynaud’s syndrome is also a circulatory disorder. Cold or stress causes blood vessels to constrict. In contrast to the body’s normal reaction, the blood vessels of those affected react very intensively. As a result, there is a sudden, usually painful narrowing of the arteries, which leads to the typical pale discoloration.
The blood vessels of the fingers are usually affected – sometimes the toes, knees, nose, ears, tongue or nipples are also affected. Due to the lack of blood, the parts of the body initially become very pale and numb. If the arteries then expand again, the regions become warm, swell and hurt.
Cause 3: Hypothyroidism
With underactive thyroid , also known as hypothyroidism, the thyroid produces too few hormones. This has effects on the whole body. In addition to tiredness and lack of concentration, the symptoms also include an increased sensitivity to cold – permanently cold hands and feet are therefore possible as a result.
Cause 4: Nerve damage
Damaged nerves, for example as a side effect of diabetes mellitus, arterial occlusive disease or alcoholism , can also lead to a disturbed sense of cold in the feet. Symptoms such as tingling and stinging or numbness are also possible.
Cold feet – this is what you can do
If the cold feet are not due to illness, there are some tips and home remedies to stimulate blood circulation and protect your feet from the cold.
Choose the right clothes
Thick socks and warm clothing are part of your wardrobe when temperatures are low. Socks made of wool or cotton are particularly recommended as they are more breathable than socks made of plastic, for example. This prevents you from sweating and your feet from freezing more quickly.
We also recommend shoes that are not too tight so that the blood can circulate well. A breathable material is also important here to avoid excessive sweating of the feet. Winter shoes should also have a thick and water-repellent sole, otherwise cold and moisture will easily penetrate the shoes from below. If your shoes get wet, you should take them off as quickly as possible.
Exercise to prevent cold feet
As a preventative measure, you should exercise regularly. If you sit a lot at work, consciously get up and walk a bit more often so that your body pumps blood into your feet again. If you want, you can also try out special foot and toe exercises, such as spreading your toes several times in a row or circling the sole of your foot on a hedgehog ball.
Even a walk during your lunch break can boost your circulation. Also be careful not to cross your legs when sitting, as this will cut off the blood supply to your feet.