Chills accompanied by cold feet can result from a number of conditions ranging from chronic diseases such as Raynaud's disease or anemia to environmental factors or illnesses 1. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, many environmental reactions to extreme weather conditions can be mitigated with proper clothing and care 4. Other illnesses are chronic and may be incurable.
Symptoms of Raynaud's disease, sometimes referred to as Raynaud's phenomenon, usually are triggered by cold weather 1. The chills that you first feel when the temperature falls are then followed by a loss of blood flow to the extremities, resulting in cold feet and hands. Raynaud's disease causes small blood vessels to constrict and is a condition that most often strikes women 1. The disease often is related to other conditions, such as lupus and scleroderma, and often affects people engaged in jobs that require repetitive motions involving large, vibrating hand tools. Skin ulcers and gangrene can set in when the circulation remains cut off for extended periods of time. If you have Raynaud's, the best way to avoid chills and cold feet is to avoid extremely cold environments. Medications such as alpha-blockers and calcium channel-blockers may be used to improve circulation by expanding your blood vessels.
- Symptoms of Raynaud's disease, sometimes referred to as Raynaud's phenomenon, usually are triggered by cold weather 1.
- The disease often is related to other conditions, such as lupus and scleroderma, and often affects people engaged in jobs that require repetitive motions involving large, vibrating hand tools.
Blood Circulation Problems in Hands
When your body loses heat faster than it can produce energy to warm it up, hypothermia can set in and cause chills and cold extremities 3. Hypothermia usually begins slowly and causes confusion and disorientation in addition to chills, notes MedlinePlus 3. Hypothermia is a direct result of exposure to extremely cold weather conditions, and it may lead to death 3. If you have cardiovascular disease or hypothyroidism, you are at a higher risk of developing hypothermia 3. Emergency medical treatment that involves warming the body and administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation may be required.
Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a blood disease that is present from birth, although symptoms often don't appear until about four months after birth. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, insufficient red blood cell production causes the poor circulation that accompanies the anemia 2. Sickle cell anemia causes pain, chills and cold hands and feet 2. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of the disease. Other symptoms include chest pain, headaches and shortness of breath. Sickle cell anemia is a birth defect that is genetic, inherited from two parents that carry the gene. A bone marrow transplant is the only procedure that can eradicate the disease. Other treatments mitigate the symptoms and may include blood transfusions, pain medication and regular vaccinations against infectious diseases.
- Sickle cell anemia is a blood disease that is present from birth, although symptoms often don't appear until about four months after birth.
- Other treatments mitigate the symptoms and may include blood transfusions, pain medication and regular vaccinations against infectious diseases.
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- MayoClinic.com: Raynaud's disease
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: Sickle Cell Anemia
- MedlinePlus: Hypothermia
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Cold Stress
- Wigley F, Post T (ed). Treatment Of Raynaud Phenomenon: Initial Management. UpToDate. Updated December 2019
- Wigley F., and N. Flavahan. Raynaud's Phenomenon. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2016. 375(6):556-65. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1507638
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Raynaud's. October 2019.
- Maverakis, E., Patel, F., Kronenberg, D. et al. International Consensus Criteria for the Diagnosis of Raynaud's Phenomenon. Journal of Autoimmunity. 2014. 48-49:60-65. doi:10.1016/j.jaut.2014.01.020
- Scleroderma Foundation. Systemic Sclerosis: Diffuse and Limited (PDF). Published January 2019.
- Herrick, A. Evidence-Based Management of Raynaud's Phenomenon. Therapeutic Advances in Musculoskeletal Diseases. 2017. 9(12):317-329. doi:10.1177/1759720X17740074
- Khouri C, Blaise S, Carpentier P, Villier C, Cracowski JL, Roustit M. Drug-induced Raynaud's phenomenon: beyond β-adrenoceptor blockers. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2016;82(1):6–16. doi:10.1111/bcp.12912
- U.S. Department of Justice. A Guide To Disability Rights Laws. U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division - Disability Rights Section. Published July 2009.
- Wigley F, Post T (ed). Treatment Of Raynaud Phenomenon: Initial Management. Updated December 2019
- Rinash, F., Tingey, P., Hardy, S. et al. Calcium Channel Blockers for Primary and Secondary Raynaud's Phenomenon. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2017.12:CD000467. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000467.pub2
- Qiu, O., Chan, T., Luen, M., Cruz, J., and E. Hermes-De Santis. Use of Nitroglycerine Ointment to Treat Primary and Secondary Raynaud's Phenomenon: A Systematic Literature Review. Rheumatology International. 2018 Aug 22. doi:10.1007/s00296-018-4119-9
- The Raynaud’s Association. Frequently Asked Questions. Updated July 2019.
- Choi, W., Choi, C., Kim, K. et al. To compare the efficacy and safety of nifedipine sustained release with Ginkgo biloba extract to treat patients with primary Raynaud’s phenomenon in South Korea; Korean Raynaud study (KOARA study). Clin Rheumatol 28, 553 (2009) doi:10.1007/s10067-008-1084-9
- Arthritis Foundation. Raynaud’s Phenomenon. Updated September 2019.
- Sufka P. Raynaud’s Phenomenon. American College of Rheumatology. Updated March 2019.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."