Diabetes and Body Temperature: Managing Cold, Numb or Tingly Feelings
When you live with diabetes, it’s not uncommon to feel cold or numb, especially in your extremities. Your core body temperature is closely tied to your metabolism, and since diabetes wreaks havoc on your metabolic processes, you’re bound to sweat, shiver and shake more than the average person.
Part of the problem comes down to your diabetes management, but that’s not the only force at play. Circulation, insulin levels, nerve problems, and other lifestyle factors could be interfering with your natural heat regulation. Find out what’s behind your cold, numbness or painful tingling, and take steps to kick-start your internal heating system.
How Peripheral Neuropathy Leaves You Cold
When diabetes goes uncontrolled for a long time, the nerves in your hands and feet could sustain permanent damage. This sort of nerve damage in the extremities is known as peripheral neuropathy, and it can interfere with all sorts of regular sensations.
For many people, nerve damage leads to pain, numbness or tingling. You may feel a “pins and needles” sensation in your fingers that lingers for a long time, or you could lose sensitivity, making it more difficult to pick things up or feel different textures. In some cases, the opposite is true — heightened sensitivity makes any contact agonizing.
Since the nerves in your limbs also monitor temperature and send those signals to your brain, it’s not uncommon for hands and feet to feel abnormally cold, too. Coldness or numbness that stems from peripheral neuropathy often brings along some other common symptoms, like:
- Sharp pains
- A burning sensation
- Loss of reflexes
- Loss of balance
If you haven’t noticed any strange symptoms in your extremities other than the cold feeling, you may be dealing with a different diabetic complication. Another type of neuropathy may be causing the trouble, or it could have more to do with your blood sugar levels or insulin usage.
How Insulin Impacts Your Body Temperature
Recent research has uncovered a link between insulin and temperature: insulin seems to work as an internal thermostat, helping to raise your core body temperature by triggering the burning of “brown fat” cells.
Since insulin heats up the body, it’s no surprise that many type 1 diabetics (who have a depleted insulin supply) have a low core body temperature — in fact, a body temperature below 97 degrees is one of the earliest signs of the disease. It follows that the elevated insulin levels associated with type 2 diabetes should warm your body rather than cool it. However, it’s not quite so straightforward.
One theory behind the chill of type 2 diabetes centers on how long your insulin has been elevated. Chronically high insulin could exhaust the circuits that trigger the fat burning process, so the heat is never created. Since your body still needs heat for important metabolic reactions to take place, it begins to store insulating fat instead of burning fat. Extra fat on your body interferes with blood circulation, and that can leave your arms, legs, fingers and toes feeling particularly cold.
The Blood Sugar Factor
When your body is in need of glucose, it sends out a variety of signs and signals. From headaches and irritability to trembling hands and ravenous hunger, most people will feel a few discomforts that are difficult to ignore.
Next page: tips to help build your body heat