Some people naturally tend to feel colder than others without any discernible cause. However, cold intolerance can also indicate an underlying medical condition, such as hypothyroidism, anemia, peripheral artery disease, and more.
Dysfunction of the thyroid gland, arterial blood flow, and low body fat can all cause a person to feel cold. A doctor can help determine
Read on to learn more about some of the possible reasons for cold intolerance. This article also discusses when to contact a doctor about always feeling cold.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. These hormones help regulate metabolism and temperature.
When the thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormones, the body’s processes tend to slow down.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
A doctor can diagnose hypothyroidism with a simple blood test. Treatment often consists of thyroid hormone replacement.
Learn more about the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Raynaud’s phenomenon causes blood vessels to narrow when a person experiences cold or stress. This decreases blood flow and may cause affected areas to feel cold.
It commonly affects the arteries in the fingers and toes. Some people may also experience symptoms of Raynaud’s in their lips, ears, and nipples.
During episodes, the affected areas can turn pale. As blood flow returns, the fingers and toes can feel numb or painful.
Treatment involves avoiding triggers if possible and, for some people, medication or surgery.
Anemia occurs when a person does not have enough red blood cells circulating and carrying oxygen throughout the body. Symptoms of anemia, including feeling cold, result from a relative lack of oxygen.
Other symptoms can include:
- weakness or fatigue
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- trouble breathing
- increased heart rate
- pale skin
There are several kinds of anemia. Types that may make a person feel cold include:
Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia. It typically occurs due to blood loss but can also result from poor iron absorption.
People who are pregnant or menstruating are at risk of iron deficiency anemia.
Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss or inadequate weight gain and a distorted body image.
People with AN may intensely restrict their food intake, exercise excessively, or purge with laxatives or by vomiting.
Other symptoms of anorexia can include:
- weight loss
- stomach problems, such as constipation or cramping
- trouble concentrating
- dizziness or fainting
- irregular periods
- dry, brittle hair or nails
- poor wound healing
- intense fear of becoming overweight
- restricting certain foods or categories of food
- being secretive about food intake
- fear of eating in public
- social isolation
Treatment of anorexia nervosa often involves a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, and nutritionists. A person may benefit from talk therapy in addition to medication and a nutrition plan.
The accumulation of plaque in the arteries makes them narrower, which means that it is more difficult for blood to flow through them.
Peripheral artery disease
Treatment for peripheral artery disease often includes lifestyle changes, such as exercising and quitting smoking. Some people also need surgery.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
Research suggests that people assigned female at birth may feel colder or have a higher preferred temperature than people assigned male at birth.
A 2021 study looked into the lower metabolic rates of 40 college students — 20 females and 20 males — when sedentary in a room for 90 minutes at various fixed temperatures each, ranging from 14–34°C. The study found that females typically had lower metabolic rates at all temperatures, with significant differences at 14°C, 16°C, and 18°C.
The study suggests that this may be due to lower metabolic rates and skin temperatures in females.
A higher metabolic rate can keep the body warmer, while a low metabolic rate may keep someone feeling cold.
If cold intolerance is a new symptom or a person’s tolerance for cold is diminishing, it is best to contact a doctor.
The doctor may ask for a detailed history of symptoms and conduct a physical exam.
Depending on the exam results, the doctor may order additional testing, such as blood tests to check hormone levels or blood counts to determine if there is an underlying medical cause.
Here are some frequently asked questions about cold intolerance.
How do I stop being cold all the time?
If a medical condition is making a person feel cold, then treating that condition can help prevent them from feeling cold all the time.
Other tips for keeping warm include:
- eating at least one hot meal per day
- wearing warm clothing
- getting enough regular physical activity
Is it bad if your body is always cold?
If a person’s body always feels cold, this may be due to a medical condition, such as hypothyroidism, Raynayd’s phenomenon, or anemia. Treating the condition can help the body to feel less cold, as well as reducing the risk of complications associated with the underlying condition.
Why do I feel cold when it’s hot?
Cold intolerance and feeling cold when it’s hot may indicate an underlying medical condition, such as hypothyroidism, peripheral artery disease, or anemia.
What vitamin deficiency causes you to feel cold?
Having a deficiency in vitamin B12 or folate can cause anemia. Anemia can cause a person to feel cold.
Some people tend to feel colder than others. This does not always indicate that there is a medical issue.
However, if a person is experiencing new or worsening cold intolerance, it might be a sign of an underlying condition.
Anyone concerned about cold intolerance or anyone who experiences additional symptoms should contact a doctor for an evaluation.