Read below about cold skin, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your cold skin from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Cold Skin Symptoms

Coldness is defined as the condition of being of or at a low temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C), and the human body has various mechanisms in place that regulate this body temperature and prevent the body from becoming too cold or too hot.

Cold skin that is chronic and persistent can be a sign of sensitivity to cold temperatures and an inability of the body to regulate mechanisms against cold. Depending on the environment you are in, cold skin can also be a sign that the body is losing heat faster than it can produce. Regardless of the specific situation, cold skin symptoms should be followed up with professional medical attention.

People with cold skin symptoms may also experience:

  • Feeling cold despite the weather, and often feeling cold when others around them feel comfortable.
  • Cold skin only in specific parts of the body such as the hands or feet
  • Cold skin that does not resolve despite adding extra layers of clothing
  • Shivering
  • Weak pulse
  • Low energy

Call 911 immediately especially if you experience excessive shivering. Once you develop symptoms of weak pulse and fatigue, you may find it difficult to think clearly and get the appropriate care.

Cold Skin Causes Overview

Temperature regulation (or thermoregulation) is controlled by different parts of the body including the hypothalamus (brain), thyroid gland, body fat, blood vessels and skin. These components work together to control body temperature. Cold skin can occur when there is dysregulation or imbalance in any of these components. It is important to see your doctor in order to find the cause of your cold skin symptoms.

Central causes:

  • The brain is the central control center for body temperature. Central causes of coldness result from dysregulation in these brain processes. For example, disorders of the hypothalamus can cause coldness because the body cannot mount proper responses.

Metabolic causes:

There are multiple metabolic processes in place that maintain proper body temperature.

  • Hormone synthesis: The thyroid gland makes hormones that allow your body to burn calories and create heat and fuel. A malfunctioning thyroid that does not produce enough hormone (hypothyroidism) can cause such cold skin symptoms.
  • Fat synthesis: Fat is necessary to maintain the heat your body creates. Any condition that significantly decreases your body fat, such as anorexia, can lead to cold skin because your body has no means of maintaining the heat it creates

Environmental causes:

Cold skin related to environmental triggers such as exposure to cold weather or water can disrupt the body's natural mechanisms and/or put the body at risk for losing heat when exposed to cold situations. This is hypothermia and is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention.

  • Cold weather or water: Many people often underestimate how such conditions can affect the body. Any water that is less than normal body temperature can cause rapid heat loss. Most people cannot willingly stand such temperatures for prolonged periods of time and will get out of the water when it becomes unbearable. However, for those finding themselves stranded in a large body of water, quick escape is often not an option.
  • Inappropriate attire: Wearing clothes that aren't warm enough for weather or water conditions can easily cause coldness. Conversely, being unable to remove wet clothes promptly and change into warm clothes can cause coldness and shivering symptoms as well.
  • Inappropriate living conditions: Houses that are improperly heated during wintertime can cause these symptoms in at risk populations such as infants and the elderly.

7 Potential Cold Skin Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Hypothyroidism

    Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped organ inside the neck, no longer produces adequate levels of hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for many bodily functions including breathing, heart rate, and metabolism.

    Most cases of hypothyroidism require lifelong hormone replacement therapy.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Condition Involving Blue Skin

    Blue skin may be due to a lack of oxygen delivered to that area by the blood, which is dangerous. You should see a doctor immediately!

    MISSING

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    blue skin
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  3. 3.Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

    Eczema is a form of skin inflammation that causes skin to be dry, itchy, red, and irritated.

    This is a long-term, recurring condition but symptoms are manageable with care.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    trouble sleeping, feeling itchy or tingling all over, dry skin, scalp itchiness, flexor surface rash
    Symptoms that never occur with eczema (atopic dermatitis):
    fever
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit

    Cold Skin Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having cold skin.

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  4. 4.Uterine Fibroids

    Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors in the uterus. They are common in women of childbearing age.

    Treatment ranges from medication to surgical removal of the fibroid.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), painful periods, irregular period
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Uterine Fibroids

    Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors in the uterus. They are common in women of childbearing age.

    Treatment ranges from medication to surgical removal of the fibroid.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), painful periods, irregular period
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Chronic Kidney Disease

    Chronic kidney disease, also known as chronic renal failure, is a disorder caused by gradual loss of kidney function. It is most common in elderly individuals.

    This condition cannot be reversed; however, treatment can delay or stop the disease from worsening.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, decreased sex drive, dry skin
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Normal Occurrence of Dry Skin

    Dry skin can be caused by overheating during the winter or air conditioning in the summer, the loss of sweat and oil glands as you get older, and overuse of things like soap, antiperspirant, perfumes, and hot baths.

    Days with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    dry skin
    Symptoms that always occur with normal occurrence of dry skin:
    dry skin
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Cold Skin Treatments and Relief

At home cold skin remedies such as using a heater or wearing warmer clothes often do not work for people with chronic cold skin. Most causes of cold skin require that you see a physician promptly in order to get appropriate evaluation and treatment.

If your cold skin is a symptom of an underlying condition, your treatment will depend on the cause.

After determining the cause of your cold intolerance your doctor may suggest:

  • Hormone replacement: Hormones are key players in the regulation of body temperature. If your cold intolerance is due to hormone imbalance, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate hormone(s) to get your body back on track.
  • Surgery: Infrequently,some central causes of cold intolerance – such as compression of the hypothalamus by a mass – may require surgical removal.
  • Rehabilitation program: If your cold intolerance is related to conditions that have significantly decreased body fat percentage, your doctor may suggest a rehabilitation program to help you gain weight safely and healthily.

If your cold skin is a symptom of environmental triggers, there are many preventative measures you can take to prevent your body temperature from going too low.

The acronym COLD– cover, overexertion, layers, dry – is an excellent way to remember the different methods you can use to protect yourself and family from hypothermia.

  • Cover: Wear a hat or other protective clothing to prevent body heat from escaping the head, face and neck. Use mittens instead of gloves to cover your hands.
  • Overexertion: In cold weather, avoid activities like running or jumping that cause sweating. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can cause your body to lose heat more quickly.
  • Layers: Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in layers. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is best for wind protection. For inner layers, choose materials such as wool, silk or polypropylene – these materials hold body heat better than cotton does.
  • Dry: Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible and try to stay as dry as possible. Pay special attention to your hands and feet, as these body parts can easily get wet again.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Cold Skin

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our cold skin symptom checker to find out more.

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Cold Skin Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced cold skin have also experienced:

    • 6% Fatigue
    • 2% Nausea
    • 2% Chills
  • People who have experienced cold skin were most often matched with:

    • 3% Hypothyroidism
    • 2% Condition Involving Blue Skin
    • 2% Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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