Authored by Revere Health

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What Deficiency Causes Cold Hands and Feet?

April 22, 2024 | Family MedicineInternal Medicine

Struggling with cold extremities? It might be the result of a deficiency. Keep reading to learn what deficiency causes cold hands and feet.

Cold hands and feet are a common complaint among many individuals, often shrugged off as a mere inconvenience. However, these symptoms can sometimes indicate underlying health issues, including deficiencies in essential nutrients. In this blog, we’ll explore some of the signs of poor circulation in the hands and feet and what cold extremities could signal about your overall health.

Signs of poor circulation in the hands and feet

Poor circulation means a specific part of your body is not getting enough blood flow. This could point to an issue with your arteries, veins, or lymphatic system. Signs your hands and feet aren’t getting enough blood flow include: 

  • Numbness or tingling 
  • Muscle cramps
  • Cold sensations (even when not in a cold environment)
  • Changes in color (fingertips may appear blueish or pale)
  • Loss of finger movement or strength
  • Dry or cracked skin on the feet
  • Swelling
  • Throbbing

Are cold hands and feet a sign of heart problems?

Cold hands/feet aren’t usually a direct symptom of either heart disease or anemia, according to Cleveland Clinic. Congestive heart failure may cause your hands and feet to feel cold because your body is prioritizing the supply of blood to vital organs like the brain. This usually only occurs in instances of chronic and severe heart failure.

If your hands and feet are generally cold, it could be a sign of a medical condition such as diabetes, peripheral artery disease, or obesity. It could even point to rarer conditions like Lupus, Hypothryodism, Scleroderma, or Raynaud’s Disease

“Cold extremities could additionally indicate more serious metabolic abnormalities, including thyroid disease,” says Dr. Russell Rhoades, an Internal Medicine provider at Revere Health. “In the instance of lower extremities, this could be indicative of peripheral vascular disease including blood vessel injury from things such as diabetes or smoking. Even more rarely, it could point to arterial blood clots from different disorders such as vasculitis, which is inflammation of the blood vessels.”

If you have a family history of any of the diseases mentioned above or are showing symptoms, schedule a timely evaluation with your healthcare professional to rule out any serious disease, Rhoades said.

Vitamins to improve circulation for cold hands and feet

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in the proper functioning of the nervous system and the production of red blood cells. Deficiency in this vitamin can lead to a condition known as peripheral neuropathy, which can manifest as tingling, numbness, and cold sensations in the extremities, including the hands and feet. Ensuring an adequate intake of vitamin B12 through diet or supplements can help alleviate these symptoms.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health and regulating calcium levels in the body. Deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to poor circulation, which can contribute to cold hands and feet. Spending time outdoors in sunlight, consuming vitamin D-rich foods such as fatty fish, eggs, and fortified dairy products, and taking vitamin D supplements can help maintain optimal vitamin D levels and improve circulation.

Deficiencies that may cause cold hands and feet

Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, including those related to muscle and nerve function. Magnesium deficiency can lead to muscle cramps, spasms, and poor circulation, which may contribute to cold extremities. Consuming magnesium-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables or taking magnesium supplements can help alleviate these symptoms.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that play a crucial role in heart health, inflammation regulation, and blood flow. Deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids may impair circulation, leading to cold hands and feet. Incorporating omega-3-rich foods such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts into your diet can help improve circulation and alleviate cold extremities.

Iron: Iron is essential for the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. When iron levels are low, it can lead to iron deficiency anemia, characterized by fatigue, weakness, and cold hands and feet. Incorporating iron-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and leafy green vegetables into your diet can help prevent and treat iron deficiency anemia.

Cold hands and feet can be more than just a nuisance; they can sometimes indicate underlying deficiencies in essential nutrients. Paying attention to your diet and ensuring an adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids can support overall health and potentially alleviate symptoms of cold extremities.

If you continue to experience persistent cold hands and feet despite dietary changes, consider consulting with a Family Medicine or Internal Medicine provider at Revere Health to rule out any underlying medical conditions. 

Revere Health


Revere Health

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.