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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : I always feel cold, even in the summer. It's so bad now that it interferes with my work and enjoyment of life. What might cause me to always feel so cold?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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August 24, 2011
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A:

Many people feel cold when others around them are comfortable. But the intensity of your symptoms seems to be more extreme. I would definitely suggest a visit with your doctor.

Here are some of the more common reasons for feeling cold:

  • Low body weight. Both fat thickness and muscle mass help us keep warm. Muscle activity generates heat and fat acts as insulation. If you have lost a lot of weight recently or you have always been thin, you might be sensitive to colder temperatures that would be comfortable for most people.
  • Skipping meals. Some people get cold when they skip meals or take in too few calories. The body conserves energy and produces less heat in response to fasting.
  • Being overly tired. Not getting enough sleep and feeling tired all the time may be making you feel cold.
  • An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Feeling cold can be a symptom of hypothyroidism. You can get a simple blood test for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) to see if you have this problem.
  • Low red blood cell count (anemia). Anemia can cause a person to feel colder than other people in the same room. But it would be unusual for it to cause the extreme cold feeling you describe. Again, it's easy to check for anemia with a simple blood test.
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon. Our normal response to cold temperatures is to move blood away from the skin to keep our internal organs warm. In people with Raynaud's phenomenon, that natural response is extreme. The tiny blood vessels get severely narrowed. And blood flow to the skin drastically drops, most often in the fingers and toes. One or more digits turn white or blue, temporarily. People with this condition tend to be much more sensitive to even minor drops in temperature than other people. Along with wearing gloves and thick socks, they need to keep their core body temperature up by wearing lots of layers of clothing.

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