There are some individuals complain of being cold when others feel warm in a particular environment. This may be described as “cold intolerance”. This is usually heard from many women and may be a result of estrogen effects, low skin temperature. Sometimes it may be a general feeling of coldness all over the body or chills or shivering. Others complain of the hands and feet being cold. This can be from a decrease in core body temperature or possibly decrease circulation to the extremities. Body temperature is regulated by a part of the body called the hypothalamus which is located at the base of the brain near the pituitary gland. This organ will send out signals to other parts of the body to help control body temperature and metabolism. It helps control hormone release like thyroid stimulating hormone as well as assist in regulating blood flow and body fat.
Some reasons for the feeling of cold sensation can be
1) Anemia- Decrease in red blood cells which may lead to decrease oxygen delivery to the tissues of the body
2) Hypothyroidism- Under the functioning of the thyroid and the appropriate amount of hormones is not produced. Core body temperature and metabolism may be affected. Individuals may also complain of fatigue/lethargy, coarse hair, brittle nails, abnormal or heavy menstrual periods, weight gain, and hair loss
3) Raynaud’s phenomenon- A condition affecting blood vessels (arteries)leading to vasoconstriction or clamping of blood vessels. This usually affects the extremities like hands and feet and there can be color changes to blue or white as a result of constriction. The extremities will turn red when blood flow returns.
4) Heart Disease or atherosclerosis- when there is plaque buildup in the blood vessels
5) Some clotting disorders
6) Reduced circulation in conditions like Diabetes and Heart Disease
7) Low body weight with (BMI) below 18.5.
8) Lack of vitamin B12 and iron may also cause anemia.
9) Anorexia – An eating disorder where the individual is fixated over being dangerously thin, there may be 15% or more below typical body weight for your height and loss of a menstrual period.
10) Some medications used to treat high blood pressure like beta-blockers may also cause a decreased heart rate and some people may complain of feeling cold. These medications can also exacerbate the Raynaud phenomenon.
If someone is experiencing persisting numbness, shivering or tingly sensations, you must consult a physician and have an evaluation for Diabetes, a nerve condition called neuropathy, thyroid disorder , vitamin or iron deficiency or heart disease. Blood tests looking at blood sugars, hemoglobin A1C, iron and vitamin levels will be obtained. Blood pressure, heart rate, height, weight to calculate a BMI will also be recorded. Disorders of the hypothalamus will also be explored by your physician by
A cardiologist may be involved in determining whether the person has underlying heart disease by measuring cholesterol levels and looking at an echo, EKG and possibly a cardiac catheterization to look for blockage. If a person has cold and clammy hands and chest pressure, palpitations or sweats along then cardiac disease or blood vessel blockage can be suspected.
A rheumatologist will do an extensive workup if the person has color changes in the hands and feet to determine if a secondary or underlying cause for Raynaud diseases such as an autoimmune disease like Lupus or scleroderma or clotting disorder.