‘Why am I always cold?': Possible causes and treatments

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People who are always cold might have a health issue

If you’re always cold and reaching for that blanket, regardless of weather, then you may have an underlying health condition. (Shutterstock)

I’m always cold!” For anyone who has ever said this, the coming of fall means more than cozy sweater weather: it means discomfort that others may not understand.

If you struggle with cooler temperatures or simply feeling always cold, there are a number of potential underlying causes.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon, anemia, hypothyroidism, and even certain lifestyle factors can all contribute to always feeling chilly.

Always cold because of Raynaud’s Phenomenon

One of the causes behind often feeling cold may be Raynaud’s Phenomenon.

This condition affects 3-5 percent of the world’s population, and can be as high as 15 percent among women between 15 and 40, according to Dr. Fredrick Wigley of Johns Hopkins Scleroderma Center.

The “phenomenon” refers to the attacks that occur when there’s a trigger, such as cold or stress: the circulatory system undergoes a vasospastic attack, meaning that your blood vessels constrict, limiting flow to hands and feet.

Though the body is supposed to limit blood flow to extremities when it’s cold, people with Raynaud’s experience an overreaction of the circulatory system.

The result is that not only do you feel cold more quickly than others, but also that your toes and fingers turn from white to blue as they’re depleted of oxygen-rich blood, then turning bright red as they warm again. This may be accompanied by tingling or numbness, and can be somewhat painful.

Primary Raynaud’s, as described, doesn’t have a known cause, and is not associated with any particular disease.

Secondary Raynaud’s occurs in some people who have other connective tissue diseases, but it’s far less common.

There is some evidence to suggest that primary Raynaud’s is genetic, so if your mother or father is always cold, it’s possible that you’ll deal with this condition, as well.

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive test to confirm a diagnosis: while your doctor can distinguish the primary from secondary form of Raynaud’s Phenomenon by looking at your ANA, doing a nailfold capillaroscopy, or measuring your SED rate, the primary condition is generally determined by assessing your symptoms.

If it seems like you’re experiencing vasospastic attacks, your doctor may give you some strategies for minimizing those attacks, such as:

  • Avoid the cold! This seems obvious, but can greatly lessen the severity or frequency of attacks.

  • Quit smoking: Nicotine causes skin temperature to drop.

  • Avoid vasoconstricting medicines.

  • Control your stress: Meditation or other relaxation techniques can help with this.

Unless your doctor suspects that you have secondary Raynaud’s, which can herald an underlying disease such as scleroderma or lupus, he or she will usually not recommend medication.

Always cold because of anemia

People who are always cold might have a health issue

Feeling always cold may be due to anemia or hypothyroidism. (Shutterstock)

Anemia, a blood disorder occurring when you have too little hemoglobin, can also cause you to be always cold.

Usually the condition comes from not getting enough iron: it may be that you’ve lost blood, that your diet isn’t rich in iron, or that you need more iron to support a pregnancy.

Some of the common symptoms of anemia, in addition to feeling always cold, are:

  • Sleepiness

  • Weakness/fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Difficulty breathing

Fortunately, if you always feel cold as a result of iron-deficiency anemia, it’s often easier to fix than Raynaud’s Phenomenon: by changing your diet or adding an iron supplement, many cases of anemia can be reversed.

Other types of this condition, such as those caused by a lack of B12 or folic acid, or anemia caused by an inherited blood disorder, are slightly more difficult to treat. Your doctor can test for each type of anemia and recommend a course of action.

Always cold because of hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can also cause you to get the chills.

The National Health Service explains that when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the hormone thyroxine, “many of the body’s functions slow down.” You lose energy, feel always cold, and may get muscle aches.

Hypothyroidism is, again, more common in women, but luckily it can be treated.

Hormone-replacement tablets are one option for regulating the levels of thyroxine, though some people opt to simply keep tabs on their thyroid level through regular blood tests rather than taking medicine.

Only a doctor can let you know if you have hypothyroidism and what the best course of action is.

Lifestyle factors that make you feel cold

Finally, if you’re always cold but can’t match that feeling to a particular condition, there are lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your discomfort.

According to Dr. Manny Alvarez, in an interview with FOX News, you might be cold because:

  • You’re skipping meals: Your body tries to conserve energy by producing less heat.

  • You didn’t get enough sleep.

  • Low body weight: While muscles generate heat, fat is an insulator, so too little of either can cause you to feel colder.

Whether you have Raynaud’s Phenomenon or just need to adjust your sleep schedule, there are definitely steps you can take to avoid grabbing for hats and mittens all the time.

Assess your symptoms and then talk to a medical professional about how to start warming up.

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