Cold Toes

Winter is the prime season for seeing patients with complaints of very cold toes but some people experience this problem in the fall as well. Cold toes that become painful have two primary causes: under dressing for the weather or a condition called Raynauds. Peripheral arterial disease is another cause as well.

Not a good idea! (Phulvar [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons)

When temperatures begin to fall remember to insulate your torso, from neck to waist, in warm layers when you spend time outdoors. Next, insulate your head with a warm hat. If it’s really cold, consider thermal underwear especially for your legs.

Inuit child’s Caribou skin clothing (], via Wikimedia Commons)

And, remember your feet! To go outside in freezing temperature with just socks and shoes on your feet is likely to result in very cold toes. Wear wool or otherwise extra warm socks. You may also try a thin sock liner under a thicker pair of wool socks. And, wear warm boots as well. The toes are usually about 10 degrees cooler than body temperature any way. So if you under dress your feet, the temperature of your toes could drop even further. I have seen patients who’s toes measure below 70 degrees, which is almost 30 degrees below core body temperature.

To warm you toes, first, get out of the cold. Next, you could soak them in warm (not hot) water until they warm up.

If you find that your toes and fingers are very sensitive to even mild cold temperatures, you may have a condition called Raynaud syndrome which is a sensitivity to cold. The small blood vessels, the capillaries, in the toes and fingers, over react by constricting and reducing blood flow to the digits. The first treatment is to prevent the problem by dressing warmly. In some cases your physician may prescribe a low dose blood pressure medication to help dilate the small blood vessels in your fingers and toes.