Women are more likely than men to feel cold all the time. One reason for this is because women have a lower resting metabolic rate. This means they don’t naturally generate as much energy as men. And for reasons still not fully understood,
But if you feel cold all the time, it’s possible you have an underlying condition that’s causing this feeling. Below are some potential reasons you may always feel cold.
Some people who feel a permanent cold sensation just feel cold all over. Others have symptoms from the underlying cause. And some have symptoms independent of a potential cause for feeling cold. These independent causes may include:
Always feeling cold has many potential causes, which have different symptoms. Some are minor annoyances while others may be a sign of a serious underlying condition.
Anemia is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells. This may be because your body doesn’t make enough of them, because it destroys them, or because you have heavy bleeding. Anemia is common, but can be severe, especially if it’s long-lasting.
Iron-deficiency anemia is when your body doesn’t have the iron it needs to make enough healthy red blood cells. It’s the most common type of anemia. Causes include:
Symptoms of anemia depend on the underlying cause and may include:
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone for your body to run normally. There’s no cure, but it can be well-controlled with medication. It can become serious if not treated.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism vary, but often include:
Atherosclerosis is when your blood vessels narrow because of plaque buildup. There are several different types, but peripheral artery disease — the narrowing of arteries that carry blood to your limbs, organs, and head — most commonly causes a cold feeling.
- pain, numbness, and cramping in your legs, buttocks, and feet after activity
- weak pulse in your legs and feet
- wounds on legs and feet heal slowly
- bluish tint to skin
- decreased hair growth on your legs
- decrease toenail growth
Raynaud’s disease is a rare blood vessel disorder that causes your blood vessels — usually in your fingers and toes — to narrow when you get cold or stressed. The affected area turns white or blue and feels cold, since blood isn’t getting there. When the blood comes back, the area turns red and often throbs.
The cause of Primary Raynaud’s disease is unknown. Secondary Raynaud’s disease is due to injury or an underlying disease.
Raynaud’s disease is most common in:
- people older than 30
- people who live in cold climates
- people with a family history of the condition
Diabetes can cause kidney and circulation issues that make you feel cold. If not treated properly, it can also cause nerve damage that makes you feel cold, particularly in your feet. Type 2 diabetes is more likely than type 1 diabetes to cause a cold feeling.
Other symptoms of diabetes include:
Symptoms are often milder in people with type 2 diabetes.
Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight, an abnormally low body weight, and a distorted perception of your own weight. People with anorexia usually severely restrict their food intake.
- extreme weight loss
- soft hair growth covering your body
- thinning hair on head
- menstruation stops
- dry or yellow skin
- low blood pressure
- irregular heartbeat
- emotional and behavioral issues (may include intense fear of weight gain, fasting, irritability, excessive exercise, and social withdrawal)
Low body weight
Sometimes, low body weight is due to an underlying cause, such as hyperthyroidism. In these cases, other symptoms will match the cause.
Poor circulation is when you have reduced blood flow to your limbs. It’s caused by other health conditions, such as diabetes and heart conditions.
- pain in limbs
- muscle cramps
Vitamin B-12 deficiency
B-12 is a vitamin people generally get through eating animal products. A B-12 deficiency is when you either can’t absorb B-12 or don’t get enough of it through your diet. It most commonly affects people who:
- are following a vegan diet
- are older than 50
- have had gastrointestinal surgery
- have digestive issues
- constipation or diarrhea
- shortness of breath
- loss of appetite
- pale appearance
- shortness of breath
- loss of balance
- tingling and numbness in your limbs
Complications of medications
Feeling cold all the time is a potential side effect of beta blockers. These medications treat high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues. Other symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, and nausea.
A doctor can determine if you have a medical condition that’s causing you to feel cold, or if you just have an intolerance to the cold.
A doctor will take a medical history. They’ll ask questions about:
- your symptoms and when they started
- if your cold intolerance has changed over time
- your diet
- your general health
- if you’ve started any new medications or have had any other health changes recently
Then they’ll do a physical exam, including taking your height and weight. Depending on your other symptoms, you may also get blood tests to check your red blood cell levels, blood glucose, and thyroid hormone.
Doctors will usually treat the condition underlying your persistent cold feeling. Potential treatments for different conditions include:
- Anemia. You might need to take iron supplements or change your diet. If your anemia is severe, you might need a blood transfusion. Your doctor will also try to treat any disease causing the anemia.
- Hypothyroidism. You’ll be prescribed replacement thyroid hormones.
- Atherosclerosis. Lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise are recommended. If your artery blockage is serious, you may need surgery.
- Raynaud’s disease. Lifestyle changes to help you stay warm and lower stress can help.
- Diabetes. You’ll need to control your blood sugar with a healthy diet and exercise. In some cases, you might need medication, such as insulin. You should also make sure to take good care of your feet, including keeping them warm.
- Anorexia. This often requires intensive treatment, including therapy and nutritional care. Many people with anorexia require inpatient hospital therapy and feeding.
- Low body weight. A nutritionist can help you put on weight safely, with healthy foods and an appropriate exercise program.
- Poor circulation. You’ll need to treat the underlying cause. In some cases, items like compression stockings may be enough.
- B-12 deficiency. You can change your diet to incorporate more B-12, or take supplements.
- Complications of medications. Work with your doctor to find an alternate medication.
If you’re always cold, you can temporarily warm up with a blanket, add more clothing layers, or turn up the heat. But if that still doesn’t work, you can temporarily address some of the underlying causes, for example:
- If you think you might be sleep-deprived, try taking a nap or going to sleep earlier.
- If you think you might be anemic or have a nutritional deficiency, make sure you’re eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat.
- Reducing stress when possible is always a good idea.
If your cold intolerance has been going on for a long time, you should be checked by a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you have other symptoms with your cold sensation, including tingling in your hands or feet, extreme fatigue, and unexplained weight loss.
If you’re always feeling cold, you might just have a lower cold tolerance. But it could also be the sign of an underlying problem. Many potential causes of always feeling cold are treatable, so don’t ignore other symptoms that go along with your cold feeling.
See a doctor if your cold intolerance is long-lasting or if you have other symptoms of more serious conditions.