Why Do I Get Cold Feet?
Now that the colder weather has settled in up here in the Adelaide Hills, we are seeing an increasing number of clients present with cold feet and foot problems associated with this.
Very cold feet are not only irritating and uncomfortable, but they can also be a sign of significant underlying medical problems.
Poor Circulation Leads to Cold Feet
Changes to the blood flow into our feet can occur with many medical conditions, our lifestyle choices and the time of the year, especially winter.
Blood is moved around the body via a series of arteries, capillaries and veins with the heart tirelessly pumping day and night.
The flow of blood to the feet is an important part of how the body regulates its temperature.
In cold weather, the blood flow to the feet will be reduced to prevent chilled blood from circulating and lowering your core body temperature.
This has the effect of making the feet colder and thus a further reduction of blood flow to the feet will occur.
Why is Poor Circulation a Problem?
The blood flowing through our bodies is very important for a number of reasons.
Blood carries oxygen to keep tissues alive and healthy, nutrients to feed and nourish all the cells in your body, and infection-fighting cells that ward off infection from bacteria, fungus and viruses when we are exposed to them.
When the circulation is reduced to the feet, this can increase your risk of:
- Dry skin
- Chill Blains
- Skin breakdown
- Skin ulceration
What Causes Poor Circulation?
There are many different causes of poor circulation in the feet including:
Studies have demonstrated that cigarette smoking significantly reduces the flow of blood into your feet for at least an hour after each cigarette and is a major cause of circulation problems.
If you have been smoking for several years, damage to the small blood vessels and arteries will occur that can slow or stop the flow of blood into the feet leading to increased infection risk and delayed healing.
2. Cardio-vascular Disease
Poorly controlled cardio-vascular disease can cause blockages in the arteries in the legs and will reduce blood flow to large muscles like the calf muscle.
When this occurs painful cramping (claudication) can develop with activity.
Some people with claudication can only walk for 20 or 30 meters before this pain starts!
Diabetes is a very common condition these days and continues to be a major cause of circulation changes.
High sugar levels over a long period of time damage the very fine vessels, the capillaries, that feed and nourish the skin.
When these capillaries get damaged, the skin becomes much weaker and can break down and form terrible foot ulcers and wounds.
Once these wounds develop, the circulation is too poor to heal them and, in some extreme cases, the only treatment for this is amputation.
4. Genetic Conditions
Some people have a genetic predisposition towards developing poor blood flow in the extremities.
One of these conditions is called Reynauds Disease.
With Reynaud's, the small blood flow to the extremities is damaged and causes pale, painful toes especially in cold weather.
How to Protect Feet with Poor Circulation
The best way to protect your feet if you have poor circulation is to ensure they are kept at consistent temperature:
- wear warm socks and shoes
- don't stand barefooted on cold tiles and floors
- keep active
- control any underlying medical conditions like Diabetes
- don’t smoke!
Do not use heat sources directly on the feet and, if you use an electric blanket, turn this off before you get into bed.
When our feet are cold, the temptation is to warm them up quickly with a wheat bag, hot water bottle or by sitting close to the heater.
The constant movement of blood helps to dissipate heat in the skin.
If your circulation is not working well, heat will build up more rapidly in the skin and you can burn your feet at lower temperatures, much more quickly.
Also, rapid fluctuations in the temperature of the skin can cause the capillaries to shut down (vasospasm) producing skin damage in the tips of the toes (commonly referred to as chill blains).
We Are Here To Help
If you are worried about your cold feet and the possibility of circulation problems, the first thing to do is book an appointment with one of the Podiatrists at Complete Podiatry for a comprehensive assessment to identify what is causing your cold feet.
Once this is done, we will develop a structured management plan that outlines our best advice for how to help you to return to doing the things you love without needing to worry about cold feet and circulation problems.
Just call us on 8330 0004, I'll love to talk to you about how we can help you build an amazing life from the feet up!
Yours in helping to build amazing lives from the feet up.
Director of Complete Podiatry