What are cold feet?

Having cold feet is often a normal condition, usually in response to cold temperatures or as a response to anxiety. In cold conditions, blood vessels in your feet and other areas, such as your nose, constrict to help minimize heat loss. This decrease in blood flow leads to decreased oxygen in these peripheral parts of your body, causing them to turn a bluish color, called cyanosis.

Foot Problems Spotlight

Cyanosis in cold weather is not serious and reverses rapidly when you warm up again. In stressful or anxious situations, your feet become cold when adrenaline prompts a decrease in the blood flow to peripheral areas of your body (such as your appendages and skin) to minimize blood loss from a potential injury.

At the same time, the perception of cold feet can also be a symptom of several conditions, including nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy), sometimes seen in diabetes (a chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy), chronic alcohol abuse, or in certain vitamin deficiencies.

Cold feet can also be a symptom of poor circulation of the blood to these distant, or peripheral, parts of the body (peripheral artery disease, PAD, also called peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, which is a narrowing or blockage of arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol on the artery walls, a condition which limits blood flow to the extremities). As this plaque builds up on the inner walls of an artery, it narrows the passageway for blood flow.

Rarely, cold feet can be a symptom of a serious condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, experience chest pain or pressure; loss of vision; paralysis or inability to move a body part; confusion; absent pulses in the feet; or shortness of breath.

Seek prompt medical care if you have slow-healing wounds or bruises on your feet and appear to have frequent skin infections. If you are being treated for cold feet from poor circulation, but symptoms remain persistent or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with cold feet?

Cold feet may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the cardiovascular system may also involve other body systems.... Read more about cold feetsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes cold feet?

Cold feet can be a symptom of several conditions, including nerve damage (called peripheral neuropathy), sometimes seen in diabetes (a chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy), chronic alcohol abuse, or in certain vitamin deficiencies. Cold feet can also be a symptom of poor circulation of the blood to these distant, or peripheral, parts of the body.... Read more about cold feetcauses

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation