Constantly cold? These 5 medical conditions might be behind your persistent chill
By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer
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If you find yourself struggling to keep warm through the colder months, your problem might extend beyond the weather outside.
There are a number of health issues that can cause a person to feel a constant chill, and certain symptoms might point toward underlying conditions that might need medical attention.
People who suffer from hypothyroidism, which is abnormally low activity of the thyroid gland, can experience a variety of symptoms, including hair loss, weight gain, fatigue, depression and feeling cold often.
“The body needs enough circulation and generation of heat,” said Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, associate professor of community health at Ball State University.
“When thyroid dysfunction occurs, there’s not enough production of heat, so you’re not really able to fight the cold,” Khubchandani said.
Dysfunction of the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck, means that the gland isn’t producing enough of the thyroid hormone, which impacts regulation of metabolism, according to WebMD.
Medical experts recommend getting your blood tested for the illness if you suspect it might be behind your persistent chill.
Another possible cause of constant coldness could be iron-deficiency anemia. It occurs when there’s a shortage of red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout your body, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If your body lacks iron, it can’t make enough of those essential red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout your system.
The more severe the anemia, the more likely it is that coldness will occur, said Dr. Susan Besser, primary care provider Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
Other possible symptoms include weakness, brittle nails, dizziness and extreme fatigue.
It’s not an illness that should be self-diagnosed or treated, because taking too much iron can be dangerous, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Experts recommend speaking with a doctor, who will likely provide iron supplements as treatment.
Low body fat
Not having enough body fat as insulation can make you feel chilly.
“There’s been a trend with many women trying to eat less and becoming anorexic because of this fad of being thinner,” Khubchandani said.
Khubchandani mentioned that people on extreme diets need to be wary of not having enough body fat and muscle mass, which can contribute to their coldness.
Those that suffer from anorexia nervosa, particularly those who are 15 percent or more below their typical body weight for their height, are especially at risk of feeling cold.
Blood vessel issues
Coldness in the hands and feet might be due to restricted blood flow to your arms and legs.
Conditions that can cause this symptom include arteriosclerosis, which is a stiffening of the arteries, and Raynaud's Phenomenon.
"The thinking behind Raynaud’s is that due to vasoconstriction, the blood vessels tighten down, so they’re not getting the best blood flow,” Besser said.
“[If this occurs], then you’re not going to get the warmth from having good circulation,” she added.
Raynaud’s often begins between the ages of 15 and 25, and although anyone can be affected, it’s most common in women and people living in colder climates, according to the National Institute of Arthritis Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
There are two different types of the illness, and doctors usually make a diagnosis after conducting blood tests and examining fingernail tissue.
People who have suffered an injury to the spinal cord might struggle to feel hot and cold sensations normally, because a spinal cord injury can cut the temperature sensors, according to Besser.
“The spinal cord is basically a sensing organ; it senses movement, temperature and touch,” Besser said.
“If the nerves that sense temperature awareness are severed, then you’re not going to be aware of temperature,” she added.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.
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