Dr. Dean

My Feet Get Cold And Stay Cold - Is That Dangerous?

Posting Date: 12/31/1999

Original Broadcast Date: October 19, 1999

Carl: I have cold feet in the winter. When I walk around on ice-cold ground, my feet get somewhat numb and stay frozen all day. Is that dangerous? Can I damage my feet?

Dr. Dean: You bet you can. Our feet get cold when they are not getting enough blood pumped to them. The causes of the constriction can range from natural to deadly.

After exposure to low temperatures, even a healthy person's feet and hands will stay cold for a time, because the body turns off the blood flow to the extremities in order to keep the vital organs in the torso warm. Usually our feet do very well standing up to the cold.

But, if the feet stay too cold for too long they can get frostbitten. In severe cases of frostbite, tissue actually dies and you can lose your toes.

Smoking and coffee drinking constrict blood vessels, so people with those habits often suffer from cold feet and hands.

At the most serious, chronically cold feet can be a symptom of vascular insufficiency, a circulatory problem. One circulatory disorder is called Raynaud's disease.

If you had a circulatory problem, you would be likely to have symptoms beyond your cold feet. However, ask your doctor about vascular sufficiency. Let's find out if your blood flow is okay.