Every night my 86-year-old mother complains that her feet are cold. I put socks on her feet and wrap them in 2 blankets. They don’t feel cold. Is it her imagination?
For 32 years, I tried to convince my doctors that my toes were cold — all of the time, even in the summer — even when I wore two pairs of socks. But one-by-one, they all said, “Your toes are warm, you have good circulation, you don’t have any problems moving your toes, and your skin looks perfectly normal.” It was their polite way of saying, “It’s your imagination.”
I even checked out a number of unlikely causes including, for example, “Were my socks too tight.” They weren’t. (People whose toes are cold often pull up their socks too much. That can cause their toes to curl under, pinch their nerves and make their toes feel cold.)
It wasn’t until I changed my neurologist — for the 5th time — that I understood the real reason. I had developed peripheral neuropathy all those years ago.
What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is damage to your peripheral nerves — the nerves that carry information to and from your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) and the rest of your body.
Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include pain, a burning sensation, or numbness [including feeling cold] and tingling in the area affected by the nerve damage such as your arms, wrists, fingers, legs, feet and toes. It may also cause muscle weakness or loss of muscle control.
Peripheral Neuropathy has many potential causes. Besides a physical exam, which may include blood tests, diagnosis usually requires:
A full medical history. Your doctor will review your medical history, including your symptoms, lifestyle, exposure to toxins, drinking habits and a family history of nervous system (neurological) diseases.
Neurological examination. Your doctor might check your tendon reflexes, your muscle strength and tone, your ability to feel certain sensations, and your posture and coordination.
If your loved one’s socks aren’t too tight, and their toes or feet are still cold, you may wish to visit a neurologist [not a chiropractor].
For more information about peripheral neuropathy, including diagnosis and treatments, visit:
- Peripheral neuropathy – Diagnosis and Treatment – Mayo Clinic
- Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy – The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy