Always Cold? Here's What Your Body's Trying to Tell You

Feeling cold all the time could just be your normal, but it might also be a sign of a condition.
Image Credit: Nikola Ilic / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

It's normal to bundle up in the dead of winter or to feel chilly when your office's central air is set on arctic blast in the summer. But if you constantly feel like an icicle when others seem cozy and comfortable, you might wonder if there's something strange at play with your body.

Here, Deena Adimoolam-Gupta, MD, a New York City-based endocrinologist and internist, explains the most likely reasons you're always cold.

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Everyone’s body is unique, so if you have a colder-than-average base temperature, that might just be your normal, Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says. But if you just suddenly started feeling cold (and you’re exhibiting other new symptoms), it could signal a more serious underlying health issue. To be safe, notify your doctor, who can perform a physical exam and help you figure out what’s going on.

1. You Have Poor Circulation

When you suffer from poor circulation, your blood flow decreases, Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says. And when this happens, certain areas of your body — like your hands and feet — will likely receive less blood, causing them to feel cold, she explains.

Becuase poor circulation can sometimes indicate more serious health problems like diabetes, blood clots, atherosclerosis, peripheral artery disease or hypertension, you should mention it to your health care provider, who can help determine the cause and design an appropriate treatment plan, according to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.

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2. You Have Hypothyroidism

The constant chill in your bones could be a result of hypothyroidism, a condition in which your thyroid doesn't produce enough hormones. Tiny but mighty, the thyroid gland affects every aspect of your metabolism, and the hormones it secretes control vital bodily functions, including body temperature and heart rate, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Indeed, "low levels of thyroid hormone may lead to lower body temperature, which may cause one to feel cold," Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.

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Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Fatigue
  • Unintentional weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Thinning hair
  • A depressed mood
  • Heavy or irregular periods
  • Muscle aches

3. You Have Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you have a low number of healthy red blood cells, Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says. It can be caused by a range of issues, from an iron deficiency (which prevents your body from producing enough hemoglobin) to certain blood diseases that destroy red blood cells faster than bone marrow can replenish them, per the Mayo Clinic.

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So, how does anemia affect your temperature? "When red blood cell counts are very low, there is less blood volume circulating throughout the body, which may make one feel cold," Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta explains.

Other symptoms that may accompany anemia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches

4. You Have Raynaud’s Disease

If your fingers and toes turn blue, icy and numb when exposed to cold temperatures (or stress), you could be dealing with a condition called Raynaud's disease.

Raynaud's disease leads to vasoconstriction (or narrowing) of the blood vessels, which reduces blood supply and, in turn, makes the fingers and toes very cold, Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.

While the condition most commonly affects your fingers and toes, it can also affect your nose, lips, ears and nipples, according to the Mayo Clinic.

5. You Have Low Body Weight

If you've lost a lot of weight recently, you might notice that you've become more sensitive to the cold. That's because your body uses fat cells to conserve heat and help you stay warm.

Consequently, if you drop a significant number of pounds, you'll have fewer fat stores — and less insulation — which might make you feel chilly, Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.

6. You Have an Eating Disorder

Those struggling with an eating disorder like anorexia might also experience the cold more intensely too. Again, profound weight loss reduces your body's percentage of fat, which serves as a source of energy and insulation, meaning it shields us from chilly temperatures and keeps us warm, Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.

If you're showing other signs of disordered eating, such as thinking about food constantly or following rigid rules around eating, talk to a licensed mental health professional who specializes in eating disorders. NEDA is a helpful resource that can assist you in locating a provider in your area.

7. You Have a Vitamin B12 Deficiency

In addition to iron, your body requires vitamin B12 to produce healthy red blood cells, according to the Mayo Clinic. And if your diet lacks this nutrient or your body is unable to absorb it properly, it can result in decreased red blood cell production and ultimately vitamin deficiency anemia, which, as we know, can make you feel colder.

8. You’re Taking Certain Medications

The culprit causing your coldness could be the medication you're taking. Some drugs — including those that contain epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine — can lead to vasoconstriction of blood vessels, Dr. Adimoolam-Gupta says.

Remember, when your blood vessels narrow or constrict, blood supply to certain parts of your body may be reduced, causing you to feel frosty.

But don't stop taking your medicine. Instead, speak to your doctor to discuss safe ways to mitigate the cold side effects.

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Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.
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