Cold Feet and Multiple Sclerosis

Woman's feet in wool socks
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I have multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that causes the immune system to erode the protective covering of the nerves. In the summer months, I have endured the sensation of hot feet—especially at night. After I wrote an article about this particular sensation, I heard from lots of other people with MS who also experienced the same feeling. What surprised me, though, is the number of people who wrote to tell me that they experienced just the opposite—very cold feet.

I had never before thought of this as a symptom of MS, but I have experienced the feeling of very cold feet, too. When the temperature starts dropping, my feet turn to ice. Even with warm socks, my toes become painfully cold, especially right before bed. I have a ritual that involves putting my feet under hot running water, followed by wrapping them up in a buckwheat pillow that can be heated in the microwave. Recently, I've trained my dogs to sleep under the covers at the end of the bed, so I can snuggle my toes against them for warmth.

What People With MS Say About Cold Feet

Below are some of the comments that I received from people with MS about their cold feet. 

  • "Sometimes when I’m going to sleep, my feet start to feel very cold and wet, but to the touch, they feel fine and look fine. I can put on really thick socks and that won’t help at all. I try to get my mind off it by reading or getting up and walking around."
  • "My feet always feel like ice, and when they are not cold, I always have the tingling sensation. My doctors attribute the cold to deficiencies of vitamin D, vitamin B12, etc. They say that once I can get these levels up, the cold feeling should go away."
  • "I can relate to the cold feet. My feet feel like I am standing in ice water all the time—often to the point of pain. My neuro says this is residual from my first initial MS attack. Nothing seems to help, so I just live with it."
  • "I can definitely relate to all of you that have *COLD* feet and hands. Almost all of the time my feet are so cold that they HURT! My doctor referred me to a circulation specialist who recommended that I take two vitamin B6 tablets when my feet hurt. Sometimes the vitamins work right away, and other times I have to take another two vitamins after a few hours. In one rare case, that did not help, so after another couple of hours so I had to take two more. Therefore, I had taken a total of six vitamin B6 over six hours and then my feet actually felt fine. It is strange—sometimes after two vitamins my feet become very warm, but this is not as uncomfortable as when they are ice cold."
  • "I’ve MS for 31 years and find that at times my feet feel brutally COLD and nothing helps. I wear socks and wrap my feet in a blanket or heating pad. I have even tried foot baths in hot water. NOTHING helps. I just have to wait until they feel like warming up themselves (sounds like they have a personality of their own, huh?). My hubby says that they feel warm to the touch, but I actually feel pain from the cold. I also get the whole body shivers sometimes—that really takes some warming!!!"
  • "I had freezing feet until I started L-Arginine. They haven’t been cold since."
  • "I have a strange phenomenon with my feet that can occur any time of the day. One foot will become very hot and the other foot becomes ice cold. I often take my sock off the hot one to cool it down and put it onto the cold foot to try to warm it up!"
  • "I’m not affected by warmer weather. Cold toes always keep me wishing for warmth. My toes can feel like they are literally frozen. They don’t look white or blue and they don’t necessarily feel cold to the touch. It doesn’t even necessarily coincide with the air temperature. It comes and goes for weeks at a time. I’ve had MS for 23+ years."
  • "I have cold feet for three days with a tingling feeling that goes up to my thighs. It is painful and feels like they were immersed in cold water. In three days, the cold will go away and my feet become warm again. This repeats consistently and has been a problem for at least seven years."

    Although many people with MS are affected by heat intolerance in hot weather, some people are very affected by colder temperatures, experiencing an increase in their MS symptoms. If you have MS and are experiencing very cold feet (or very hot feet), talk to your doctor about possible treatments. 

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