Monday, December 13, 2010

Cold Feet Could Indicate Bigger Problems

You don't have to be standing at the alter to have cold feet. Cold feet come in many shapes and sizes, and their causes may be as benign as not having a pair of socks on to as serious as vascular disease. So, if your feet are constantly cold, it is never a bad idea to take a longer look to make sure that you do not have symptoms of other conditions.


Some of the initial conditions that we would be concerned about with cold feet are:

• Anemia

• Diabetes

• Neuropathy

• Raynaud's Disease

• Peripheral Arterial Disease

Typically, cold feet mean nothing more than just that - cold feet. Cold weather causes the blood vessels in the extremities to constrict so that more blood can be routed to the core, essential organs of the body. This constriction of vessels is what causes your feet to be the first cold body part. In the absense of cold weather, we must consider if there are internal factors leading to our cold feet.

Anemia is a broad term describing over 400 different conditions that are all related to low red blood cell counts or hemoglobin counts. Anemia can cause cold feet due to a decrease in oxygen delivery to the tissues in the parts of the body farthest from the heart in the smaller vessels.

Diabetes can cause cold feet in multiple ways. It could be due to the circulation being decreased by hardening of the arteries, or it could be due to changes in the nerves of the extremities and decreased sensation.

Neuropathy, though most commonly associated with diabetes, can occur on its own in the absence of diabetes. If neuropathy is believed to be the cause of your cold feet, sometimes nutritional supplements or medications can help.
Raynaud's Disease is associated with other rheumatic conditions. It most commonly affects women and smokers. It can be precipitated by cold weather or stress and its most characteristic feature is a series of discolorations of the fingers or toes. The skin can be very white, very blue or very flushed when the blood vessels open back up.
Periperhal Arterial Disease, or PAD, poses the most serious immediate risk that cold feet can incur. PAD can be described by a sudden onset causing one of the vessels to become clogged, or can happen over time by hardening of the arteries.
The 6 P's of PAD

1. Pulselessness- a lack of pulse in one or multiple vessels of the foot

2. Pain

3. Pallor- entire foot may be pale white

4. Parasthesia- loss of feeling in the foot

5. Paralysis- loss of movement in the foot

6. Perishing cold

PAD can be an emergent condition, and you should consult your physician if you believe that is the cause of your cold feet. However, PAD is the exception to the rule. In most cases, cold feet are just cold feet.