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Causes of Cold Intolerance

Some people feel cold more than others without any cause. However, it can also be due to an underlying medical condition. Thyroid gland dysfunction, low body fat, and arterial dysfunction are a few of the conditions in which a person feels cold. Research suggests that females feel cold more than males.(6) It may be due to the lower resting metabolic rate as compared to that of men. A higher metabolic rate keeps the body warmer.

Causes of Cold Intolerance

There are numerous reasons, why a person feels cold. These include the following:

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  1. Hypothyroidism

    Cold intolerance is a common symptom in people with hypothyroidism.(1) Thyroid hormones help in regulating metabolism. In hypothyroidism, thyroid hormone is not produced by the thyroid gland properly. This leads to the slowing down of the body’s processes.

    Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

    A simple blood test is needed to diagnose hypothyroidism and the treatment includes thyroid replacement hormone.

  2. Raynaud’s Phenomenon

    In Raynaud’s phenomenon, the blood vessels get narrow when a person feels cold. This causes a decrease in blood flow and the affected part feels cold. It is mostly seen affecting the arteries of fingers and toes. In some people, the symptom may also be felt in the lips, ears, and nipples.(2) The affected areas may feel pale during the episode and as the blood flow returns there may be numbness and pain felt in these areas.

  3. Anemia

    In anemia, a person may not have enough blood cells circulating and carrying oxygen throughout the body. The symptoms of anemia may include cold intolerance due to the lack of oxygen.(3)

    Other symptoms include:

    Anemia is of many types, but the types that make a person feel cold are:

    • Iron Deficiency Anemia: It is the most common type of anemia that occurs due to poor iron absorption.
    • Vitamin Deficiency Anemia: This type results from nutritional deficiency, which is mostly due to inadequate dietary intake.
  4. Anorexia Nervosa

    Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterized by weight loss or inadequate weight gain. In anorexia nervosa, people restrict food intake intentionally, exercise excessively, and purge with laxatives or by vomiting. People with this condition have low body temperatures and may have low body fat levels as well as reduced metabolic rates. These factors may cause the person to feel cold excessively.(4)

    Other symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:

    • Weight loss
    • Weakness
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Dry and brittle hair and nails
    • Stomach problems
    • Weakness
    • Social isolation
    • Poor wound healing
    • Fear of becoming overweight
    • Being selective about food

    Such a person may benefit from talk therapy and a proper nutrition plan.

  5. Peripheral Artery Disease

    In peripheral artery disease, the plaque build-up in the arteries may make it difficult for them to carry blood. The disease leads to a decrease in the blood flow to the extremities making them feel cold and numb.(5) There may be tingling and pain in the hand and feet. The treatment for peripheral artery disease may include lifestyle changes, quitting smoking, and exercising.

    If cold intolerance is a new symptom, it might indicate an underlying condition and a doctor should be consulted for a proper diagnosis. A detailed medical history and exam are done by the doctor and additional testing is performed to detect the underlying condition.

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