July 18, 2022
“Tonight's forecast: a freeze is coming!" - Mr. Freeze
Does every night feel like a Mr. Freeze quote? If so, it may be time to identify whether the cold you are experiencing is a passing chill or something more.
Of course, being cold isn’t necessarily grounds to rush to the emergency room. After all, we all experience coldness differently, and some of us are naturally more sensitive to cold than others. In fact, gender is a factor in cold intolerance. Women are more likely to feel cold, in part because they have a lower resting metabolic rate.
However, there are medical reasons that could result in you always being cold. In which case, it’s better to reach for the car keys than a warm blanket and visit a doctor to uncover if there’s something else afoot.
Here are a few of the common medical reasons for being cold and when it’s time to visit a doctor if you’re constantly feeling cold.
Anemia is one of the most common blood conditions in the U.S., affecting nearly 6% of the population. Anemia is caused by a lack of healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout your body. In this case, you feel cold because your body isn’t getting enough oxygenated blood.
In addition to feeling cold in your hands and feet, other symptoms of anemia can include:
There are several different types of anemia. Some are caused by a lack of nutrients, like iron-deficiency anemia or vitamin B12-deficiency anemia. Others, like sickle cell anemia, is a genetic condition that results in crescent-shaped red blood cells.
Certain blood tests, like a complete blood count (CBC) test, can reveal if you have a low red blood cell count. Once diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe different treatments depending on the type of anemia you have. For instance, iron-deficiency anemia can be treated with iron supplements or a transfusion of red blood cells.
Poor blood circulation and reduced blood flow can cause extremities like your fingers, hands, feet, and toes to feel colder than the rest of your body. However, if your fingers turn pale white then blue when exposed to the cold, it could be a symptom of Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Raynaud’s phenomenon is a condition in which small blood vessels in the fingers and toes constrict, resulting in low blood flow. It’s typically caused by emotional stress or exposure to cold. It’s also most common in women, people older than 30, people who live in cold climates, or people with a family history of the condition.
Your doctor will look at your family history to diagnose Raynaud’s phenomenon. They may also perform a cold stimulation test to see the color change in your hands and fingers.
Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland near the base of your neck that has a profound effect on regulating everything from your body’s temperature, heart rate, to your metabolism. Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid does not release enough thyroid hormones, which can make your metabolism slow down. This can make you feel tired, constipated, gain weight, and unable to tolerate cold temperatures.
A thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test can measure the levels of TSH in your bloodstream and determine whether your levels are elevated or too low. If they’re too low, your doctor will likely recommend hormone replacement therapy.
Diabetes is the result of the body being unable to regulate sugar levels in your body. It often presents itself through excessive thirst, frequent peeing, or unexplained weight loss. Another symptom may include cold hands and feet.
Complications from diabetes can also result in nerve damage, known as peripheral nephropathy. This can lead to a constant feeling of cold, especially in the hands and feet. Other symptoms of peripheral nephropathy can include burning, numbness, pain, and tingling.
Fortunately, diabetes can be managed by maintaining normal sugar levels, healthy eating, exercise, and medication.
Fluctuating estrogen levels could be the culprit behind your coldness. Estrogen is a hormone that regulates female reproduction. Estrogen levels change and fluctuate throughout a woman’s life, including during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause. These hormonal changes can make you more susceptible to feeling cold, especially if you are entering menopause.
If you are entering menopause, your doctor may recommend hormonal or non-hormonal therapies to ease any discomfort of menopause symptoms, like antidepressants or low-dose birth control.
Before you run to the doctor the next time you put on a jacket or gloves, it’s important to understand the context and conditions surrounding your feelings of cold. After all, if it’s the middle of winter and you live in an igloo, then you’re understandably going to feel a bit chilly.
However, if the heat is cranked up and you’re wearing a sweater while others complain about the temperature, then there might be something else afoot.
That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the other symptoms that accompany this feeling of cold. Although feeling chilly might not warrant a visit to the doctors, combined with other symptoms may necessitate a visit. Fortunately, many of these conditions can be identified through blood or lab work.
Feeling cold can be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t always warrant a visit to the doctor. However, if you are experiencing accompanying symptoms like dizziness and fatigue, your doctor may request blood or lab work to better understand what’s going on - and Getlabs can help.
With over 5,000 different lab tests available, Getlabs enables you to book a nearby phlebotomist for many of the tests your doctor may recommend. If you want to learn more about Getlabs, visit www.getlabs.com/faq to learn more.
Getlabs delivers healthcare to you. Our specialists come to you to collect your labs and deliver them to Labcorp and Quest for testing. We’re available same-day, nationwide.