Why Do You Feel Cold All the Time?

Woman wrapped in blanket drinking tea
Mark Edward Atkinson/Getty Images

If you always feel colder than everyone else around you, it can be a frustrating situation. You may need to wear a jacket when it seems to be short sleeve weather for other people, or the pool or beach water that everyone is enjoying may be too cold for you.

Along with the inconvenience and embarrassment of feeling cold, you might also wonder why your perception of temperature is not ‘normal’ or 'average.' Cold intolerance, also referred to as hypersensitivity to cold, is not uncommon, and it can be caused by a number of health conditions, which can be managed with the help of your doctor.

You should tell your doctor if you feel cold all the time. You doctor will ask you about other symptoms that could help pinpoint to the cause of your cold intolerance, including appetite changes, weight changes, mood problems, or sleeping issues. Below are some of the most common causes of cold intolerance

Thyroid Disease 

Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, is one of the most recognized causes of cold intolerance. Thyroid disease is a medical problem that requires evaluation and treatment from your doctor.

There are a variety of different types and causes of thyroid disease. If your symptoms are consistent with thyroid disease, your doctor will want you to have blood tests, which can identify what type of problem you might be having with your thyroid hormones.

Thyroid disease is treatable with medication, and most people with thyroid problems experience significant improvement of symptoms with medical treatment.

Anemia 

Anemia means that your red blood cells are not functioning optimally. There are a number of causes and types of anemia, including hereditary, environmental, and nutritional causes such as iron and vitamin B12 deficiency and lead toxicity. Your doctor can identify anemia through a simple blood test.

It is important for you to obtain proper treatment for your anemia, because without treatment, it can get worse.

Malnutrition

Malnutrition can be somewhat complicated because it doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't getting enough to eat. Malnutrition means that the food you eat is not providing the right amount of nutrients.

In fact, a person who is overweight may be malnourished and deficient of essential vitamins and minerals. Similarly, a person may eat large amounts of food, yet may be malnourished if a health problem, such as malabsorption or diarrhea, prevents some of the nutrients from being absorbed into the body.

Malnutrition can cause anemia, but it may also cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. If malnutrition is the result of an unhealthy diet, then changing your diet, and possibly adding vitamin supplements, is the best way to fix that problem. If you have a problem with malnutrition as a result of a digestive system problem, however, then you may need medical—and possibly even surgical—treatment.

Being Very Skinny

Often, thin people are hypersensitive to cold. This is because body fat insulates your body, while muscle helps your body produces heat through metabolism. If you are very skinny, and lacking in muscle and/or body fat, you may be hypersensitive to cold.

Not everyone who is very skinny is hypersensitive to cold, however. For example, hyperthyroidism can cause a person to be very skinny and feel hot all the time. And athletes, who may be very thin, may also have a high amount of muscle as a result of physical training.

Circulation Problems

If you are cold all the time, your friends may tell you that you have poor circulation. Circulatory problems may cause the hands and fingers to feel especially cold. Often, circulatory problems also cause the hands and feet to appear pale, or even bluish.

A specific circulatory condition called Raynaud's disease is characterized by episodic narrowing of the blood vessels, which causes the fingers or toes to appear pale or blue.

If you experience these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor. You cannot fix circulation problems on your own by shaking or massaging your hands or feet, so it is important to pursue medical attention for this problem.

Neuropathy 

Neuropathy, which is disease of the nerves, may produce hypersensitivity of the nerves. This hypersensitivity can cause a cold sensation in the hands or feet all the time, and may also cause you to feel hypersensitive to cold.

Pituitary Problems

The pituitary gland, located in the brain, regulates many of the body's hormones, including thyroid hormone. Any problem in pituitary gland function causing over or under activity of this gland, can cause problems with temperature regulation, making you feel too hot or too cold all the time.

Hypothalamic Problems

The hypothalamus is a small region of the brain that regulates hormones throughout the body, and also regulates the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus monitors several aspects of the body's conditions, including temperature, hydration and blood pressure, and adjusts the body's hormones to fine-tune these conditions. If the hypothalamus is not functioning as it should, you may experience symptoms such as feeling cold all the time.

Estrogen

Estrogen is a hormone that regulates female reproduction. Estrogen levels change throughout life and throughout a woman's menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

Fluctuations in estrogen levels can affect sensitivity to cold, causing women to feel colder than usual during some stages of the menstrual cycle.

Parkinson's Disease

Feeling cold is one of the less recognized symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Overall, this is related to alterations in autonomic function that can occur with Parkinson’s disease.

Fibromyalgia 

Many people with fibromyalgia suffer from symptoms that are inconsistent or that fluctuate over time. Fibromyalgia may cause a variety of distressing symptoms, including a sense of feeling colder than usual all or some of the time.

Nerve Injury

Nerve injury is usually the result of a traumatic accident that damages all or part of a nerve, causing lack of function. However, in addition to a lack of nerve function, people who experience only a partial recovery from nerve injury may experience persistent cold sensation or hypersensitivity to cold in the area of the body that is supplied by the injured nerve.

Infection

When you have an infection, such as a cold or a 'stomach bug,' your whole body may feel cold, and you may even experience chills or shivers. Often, when you have an infection, you can fluctuate between feeling hot and feeling cold, particularly if you have a fever.

Feeling cold when you have an infection is in large part due to the fact that your body consumes so much extra energy fighting the infection.

Feeling cold as the result of an infection should be a temporary situation that resolves shorty after the infection itself resolves. Many people notice feeling unusually cold in the days before noticing the more recognizable signs of an infection, such as fevers, cough and nausea.

Fatigue

Fatigue can also cause you to feel cold. Some people notice that their whole body feels colder than usual when they haven't slept or when they are jet lagged. If you feel cold as a result of fatigue or physical exhaustion, this feeling should resolve once your body is able to get enough rest.

Women Are More Likely to Feel Cold All the Time

It is more common for women to feel cold all the time than it is for men. Thyroid problems and fibromyalgia are more common in women, and, of course, estrogen fluctuations are only present in women. Women also are more likely to be very skinny than men are.

A Word From Verywell

Feeling cold all the time can be frustrating and even embarrassing if you find yourself always dressing warmer than everyone around you, or avoiding outdoor activities that others seem to enjoy.

There are a number of medical conditions that can cause you to feel cold all the time. Often, even after you have tests to determine why you feel cold all the time, you might not get a medical diagnosis.

You may feel disappointed if you do not get an answer to the cause of your problem. However, rest assured that most people who feel cold all the time do not have a medical problem at all, and are completely healthy. If you do not have a health condition causing your cold intolerance, you can use practical methods to manage your problems, such as selecting comfortably warm clothes and footwear, sitting near a fireplace, consuming warm food and hot beverages, and even using hot pads when necessary.

Sources:

De Rosa A, Pellegrino T, Pappatà S, et al, Non-motor symptoms and cardiac innervation in SYNJ1-related parkinsonism, Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2016 Feb;23:102-5.

Vaksvik T Røkkum M, Haugstvedt JR, Holm I, Small-to-moderate decreases in cold hypersensitivity up to 3 years after severe hand injuries: A prospective cohort study., J Plast Surg Hand Surg. 2016;50(2):74-9.

Continue Reading