Do your feet feel cold, even when it's warm or hot outside? This is a common problem for people with diabetes. Having cold feet as a diabetic at times could be harmless, but other times it can be a sign of deeper health problems. As a foot doctor, I see, manage, and treat problems that people with diabetes have with their feet daily. These are the top 3 reasons why your diabetic feet feel cold.
1. Diabetes can cause nerve damage to the feet
Peripheral neuropathy or diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage due to the high blood sugars from diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy in diabetics starts in the feet, and can sometimes get so bad that it can attack the nerves in the hands as well. One of the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy is a cold sensation, or you sensing that your feet feel cold. A cold feeling in your feet caused by peripheral neuropathy may not mean that your feet are actually cold from a temperature sense but from a nerve response. Along with feeling cold, someone with peripheral neuropathy can have tingling, numbness, or burning sensations in their feet.
2. Diabetes can cause poor circulation to the feet
The high blood sugars seen in diabetes also attack the arteries to your feet and legs as well. This is known as Peripheral Arterial Disease or PAD, and causes not enough blood flow to reach your legs and feet. Blood vessels in the feet of someone with PAD can become clogged with plaque or harden. Not enough blood flow to your feet can make your feet feel cold, especially if you're diabetic. Blood gives much warmth to the body, and a lack of blood to any part of the body does lower its temperature.
3. Diabetes with hypothyroidism
People with diabetes are more likely to have other health problems like hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid, a large gland at the front of your throat, doesn't make enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid hormone has a key role in metabolism, including the control of your body temperature. One way that low thyroid hormone can be seen in diabetics is with cold feet.
How To Manage Your Cold Feet If You're A Diabetic
Having cold feet constantly is an uncomfortable feeling, especially when you know that the air or space around you is not in fact cold. Here are some tips, and some things you should and can do, to help manage cold feet if you're diabetic.
See your foot doctor - If you're a diabetic, you should be seeing your foot doctor or podiatrist regularly to make sure your feet and legs are healthy. If you are having cold feeling in your feet constantly, speak with your foot doctor about your concerns. We can look further into this issue and find a reason why you are having these cold sensations.
Make movement a priority - A daily movement practice whether it's walking, yoga, swimming, gardening, or more increases blood flow to all parts of your body, your feet included, which can increase warmth. Movement is great to lower the symptoms, and possibly reverse the effects of Peripheral Arterial Disease or PAD.
If possible add layers of clothing - Especially if you're at home, adding warm, thick, fuzzy socks, or blankets over your feet for diabetics dealing with cold feet can help make you more comfortable and decrease this feeling.
What Not To Do If You Are A Diabetic With Cold Feet
My #1 rule for what diabetics with cold feet should not do, is put your feet on or near any heat source. Cold feet with diabetes is unfortunately common enough that I've had many patients with this issue. Especially with these patients that lived in colder climates, putting diabetic feet on or near a radiator, space heater, or even an electric blanket, can lead to severe burns requiring hospitalization, multiple surgeries, skin grafts, infection, and worst-case scenario amputation. Again diabetes causes neuropathy, and if you can't feel pain in your feet, you don't know when your feet are getting too hot due to your skin being burned until it's too late. This is where someone with diabetes can get themselves into trouble.
For diabetics, neuropathy, poor circulation, or hypothyroidism can all be causes of cold feet. This can be a very frustrating feeling but can be managed with daily movement and possibly adding layers. No diabetic should sit with their feet near a heat source to get warm, this due to neuropathy can lead to severe burns. If you have tried to manage your cold feet at home without success, see your local foot doctor.
Schedule Your Appointment At Direct Podiatry Arizona
Are you diabetic and in need of a foot doctor in Phoenix, AZ? My name is Dr. Tarr, I am the owner of Direct Podiatry Arizona in Tempe. To view my available appointment times, click here.