Are you the one who feel cold all the time (even if others feel completely warm)?
Are you the one who feel shivering when none of the others in a room feel so?
If yes, you could be suffering from increased sensitivity to cold. While our body might have a natural tendency to feel cold, increased sensitivity to cold could indicate an underlying health problem that ranges from anemia to thyroid disease.
An increased sensitivity to cold, also known as cold intolerance, is when you feel extremely sensitive to cold temperatures. People who have chronic health problems and those who are obese are known to be at a high risk of cold intolerance. If adding layers of clothing fails to relieve your problem or if you have a history of cold intolerance or becomes common (persists for a long time), it is wise to see a doctor and know the exact cause of the symptom. Here are some of the common causes of cold intolerance.
What Causes Cold Intolerance?
There are numerous mechanisms which play a key role to regulate the body temperature. One of the mechanisms involves hypothalamus, a part of the brain, which sends impulses to the body to regulate heat production and regulate the body temperature. It also sends signals to the thyroid gland to maintain body temperature by ensuring proper metabolism. The thyroid gland has to function properly to burn calories and thus, regulate heat and fuel production.
Additionally, blood flow also helps to spread heat to various parts of the body and the body fat also helps to maintain heat in the body. Any imbalance or changes in the functions of these mechanisms can lead to increased sensitivity to cold.
Here are a few common causes that can lead to cold intolerance.
1. Anemia: It is a condition in which the body fails to make a sufficient amount of healthy red blood cells. Due to the lack of healthy red blood cells, the supply of oxygen to various parts of the body is also affected, which can cause increased sensitivity to cold. The other common symptoms of anemia include fatigue, looking pale and irregular heartbeats. If diagnosed with anemia, your doctor might recommend treatment accordingly, which can include diet changes and use of iron supplements.
2. Hypothyroidism: It is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones to meet the body’s requirement or the body fails to process the hormones effectively. As a result, the level of thyroid hormones in the blood decreases leading to hypothyroidism. As the thyroid gland plays a key role in regulating metabolism, hypothyroidism can lead to cold intolerance. The other signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism include dry skin, thinning of hair, fatigue, weight gain, constipation and irregular periods. Consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment of the condition. Hypothyroidism can be treated with medications, which are usually advised for lifelong with regular dose adjustment as per your doctor’s advice.
3. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): It is a blood vessel (vascular) problem in which the arteries (vessels that carry pure or oxygenated blood) become narrowed thereby reducing the blood flow to the limbs. PAD impairs the blood circulation in the extremities, especially in the legs. As a result, it causes coldness at the base of the feet, which is a common symptom of PAD. It may also cause pain in the leg while walking. The risk of PAD increases with age and those with a history of smoking or diabetes. It can also affect the blood flow to the heart and the brain, and hence, it is important to consult a doctor to know the cause and get it treated at the earliest.
4. Diabetes: As we are aware of, diabetes is a condition that causes increased blood glucose levels. If left uncontrolled, it can affect the eyes, heart, kidneys, brain, and feet. It can increase the risk of kidney disease and circulatory problems, which in turn can lead to increased sensitivity to cold. Uncontrolled diabetes can also lead to nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy. This affects the nerves that are responsible for sending messages to the brain to regulate temperature causing the hands and feet to become cold.
5. Anorexia: It is a type of eating disorder that causes severe loss of weight. People suffering from the condition become dangerously thin. Due to poor health and nutrition, the metabolism is affected which in turn impairs the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Cold intolerance is one of the common symptoms of anorexia. If your weight is 15% or more below the ideal weight for your height, have lost more than 10 kgs in a month, think about your weight constantly or have not had periods for the last 3-4 months, do consult your doctor at the earliest. The treatment is a long-term approach which includes proper diet and nutrition and a healthy lifestyle along with medications and counseling.
Feeling cold all the time can be a sign of a serious medical condition and hence, it should not be ignored. The treatment for frequent and chronic coldness is dependant on the cause of the symptom. For example, if it is caused due to a thyroid problem, then you might need medications to improve the functioning of the thyroid gland. Do consult your doctor to know the cause of cold intolerance and treat it accordingly.
(The article has been reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)