Diabetes and Cold Feet: Causes and Treatments

Published on April 10, 2022

Cold feet and diabetes

Diabetes and cold feet are part of a vicious circle. First, diabetes and its common health complications, peripheral neuropathy and poor blood circulation, can cause the feet to be or feel colder. Then, cold itself can worsen blood circulation in the feet and be responsible for diabetes-related foot problems and aggravations. 

If having cold feet may seem like a small issue at first sight, it can be the sign of a serious underlying complication of diabetes. Here’s what to do if you have diabetes cold feet and how to warm them up!

  • Why do diabetic have cold feet?
  • How to treat diabetes cold feet?
  • Diabetic Thermal Socks for Cold Feet

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Diabetic shoes are designed by foot experts to alleviate and prevent most foot complications caused by diabetes. Quality footwear is a great investment for diabetics and should be chosen carefully. Check out these 10 great diabetic shoes available in 2022!
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Why do diabetics have cold feet?

Cold feet can be caused by a great variety of factors and health conditions that aren’t necessarily related to diabetes. However, the most common causes of chronic coldness in the feet, toes, legs, or hands, are peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) and poor blood circulation. Both are frequent complications from diabetes, which explains why diabetics often have cold feet.

Caution: While it may seem like a small issue, cold feet can be a sign of serious health problems. If you have diabetes and suffer from chronic coldness in the toes, feet, legs, or hands, you should talk to your doctor and get a proper medical diagnosis. 

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy

Nerve damage and disorders are common causes of cold feet. About 60% to 70% of people with diabetes develop some sort of nerve damage. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy happens when uncontrolled blood sugars for long periods of time have damaged the nerves of the body’s extremities (feet and hands). Symptoms vary from one person to the other and may include numbness, loss of sensation, tingling, prickling, burning pain, cramps, sharp pain, sensitivity to touch, and cold sensation in the toes, feet, or legs.

Poor blood circulation

Poor blood circulation is another very common cause of cold feet. Repetitive high blood glucose levels damage the small vessels and narrow the arteries. This is called peripheral artery disease, and it’s a common complication of diabetes. Peripheral artery disease reduces blood flow to the legs, feet, and occasionally the hands. Symptoms are numerous and include painful cramps, leg numbness or weakness, coldness in the legs and feet, sores, and others.

Other causes of cold feet

There can be a variety of other causes for cold feet that are not necessarily directly linked to diabetes. Cold feet can be a side effect of certain medications, as well as a symptom of hypothyroidism, restless leg syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome, Raynaud’s diseaseBuerger’s disease, anemia, or other health conditions. Stress and anxiety, as well as tiredness and, of course, cold temperatures, can cause your feet to temporarily feel colder.

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Are cold feet a sign of diabetes?

Cold feet can be a sign of diabetes. To be more accurate, cold feet can be a sign of diabetes complications such as peripheral neuropathy or poor blood circulation. As explained above, when at an advanced stage, uncontrolled diabetes damages the nerves and the arteries can lead to a cold sensation in the body’s extremities (toes, feet, legs, or hands) caused by either or both reduced circulation and nerve disorder. 

Cold feet diagnosis

Thousands of people complain about having cold feet and in most cases, it’s no big concern. But cold feet can also be the sign of serious underlying medical conditions, sometimes even life-threatening ones, such as diabetes, peripheral artery disease, diabetic neuropathy, hypothyroidism, anemia, or others. If you suffer from chronic coldness in the toes, feet, legs, or hands, you must see your doctor and seek a medical diagnosis. 

If you have diabetes, your medical insurance probably covers a yearly diabetic foot exam. It’s a great opportunity to ask about your cold feet syndrome and seek advice. 

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How to Treat Diabetes Cold Feet?

Having cold feet is annoying and no one likes the feeling of it. But if you have diabetes, cold can also complicate your general foot health. Cold decreases blood circulation and tends to dry out the skin that can then crack and get infected. That’s why keeping your feet warm isn’t only necessary for comfort, but it also plays an important role in diabetic foot care. Whether caused by diabetes or not, there are a few things you can do at home to protect your feet and get rid of the chronic cold sensation.

Move and massage your feet

As simple as it seems, movement is the most efficient way to warm up your feet. Move your toes, stretch, get up, walk… It helps boost blood circulation which is often the main cause behind diabetes cold feet. Another great way to promote blood circulation in the feet and legs is by massaging them. You can do it with your own hands, or you can use one of these electric foot massagers for neuropathy. Some of these at-home machines even have heat-therapy settings!

Wear warm socks and slippers

Quality footwear is essential for diabetics, especially for those suffering from symptoms of diabetic neuropathy such as cold feet. Diabetes is dangerous for the feet. It’s responsible for thousands of toe, foot, or leg amputations every year in the USA. If you start having foot complications such as cold feet, wearing diabetic socks and slippers home can help prevent further harm. Some thermal diabetic socks are great to keep your feet warm and protected at the same time!

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Warm socks for Diabetics’ Cold Feet 

Warm diabetic socks are rare gems. They must keep your feet warm but not too much, so your feet don’t sweat and do stay dry at all times. Diabetic thermal socks must be crafted in premium quality wools or synthetic fabrics that offer warmth but also great breathability and moisture-wicking properties. Besides, like any diabetic socks, they must have protective and comfort features that suit diabetic feet: a loose non-binding top, a seamless protective interior, and maybe some extra cushioning and padding. 

We’ve selected and reviewed the 5 best diabetic thermal socks here!

Can diabetics wear socks to bed?

If you have cold feet at night, you can wear your socks to bed. Make sure your socks are loose enough and do not constrict your feet so your blood circulation isn’t blocked while you’re asleep. Prefer wearing diabetic socks instead of regular socks. Their loose fit and stretchable top are designed to help boost blood flow.

Can diabetics use heated socks or electric blankets?

All foot professionals agree: diabetics should not wear heated socks. Heated socks usually have a battery-powered low-energy heater mesh which provides ambient warmth to the feet. This kind of electrical socks can burn your skin. For the same reason, it is not recommended for people with diabetes and neuropathy to use electric blankets or heating pads to warm up their cold feet.

What about heated bottles?

Sorry but again, no. And even less if you have diabetic neuropathy. A heated bottle could be boiling and burning your skin without you even feeling it! If your feet are cold at night, it’s better to wear warm thick diabetic socks or to add a blanket on top of them.

Use warm foot baths with caution

If used wisely and reasonably, warm foot soaks are no danger for people living with diabetes or neuropathy. But there are some precautions to take. Diabetic neuropathy can cause numbness and inability to feel temperature properly. The damaged nerves in your feet are not reliable enough for judging water temperature. You could burn your skin. Always check the bath temperature with a thermometer before soaking your feet.

Related article: The best foot soaks for neuropathy and diabetic foot pain relief