If your ankles seem to be cold on a frequent basis, the cause may be disease. Not disease of the skin, but conditions such as peripheral vascular disease.

It is not normal to have chilly ankles without an obvious explanation such as wearing only ankle-high booties on your feet in a cool environment while sitting at a computer.

“While most people complain about hot or swollen ankles, some people experience cold ankles which can also be uncomfortable,” says Walter Gaman, MD, FABFM, board certified in family medicine and the author of several award-winning books including “Age to Perfection: How to Thrive to 100, Happy, Healthy, and Wise.”

Reasons for Chilly Cold Ankles Include Disease

“There are a variety of reasons that ankles can be cold,” says Dr. Gaman.

“The most common and obvious reason is that the ankle is exposed to cold air. This could happen in the winter or spring, but the summer is the most likely time.

“This is because most people don’t wear socks in the summer, so their ankles are exposed to the air conditioner.”

If your ankles feel chilly, put on a pair of socks. If you’re healthy, the socks should instantly correct the problem. But if they don’t…you may have a problem.

“Medical conditions that can lead to cold ankles include: peripheral vascular disease, Raynaud’s phenomenon and rheumatoid arthritis,” says Dr. Gaman.

What is peripheral vascular disease?

Also known as peripheral artery disease, it’s when the arteries in your legs are narrowed, reducing blood flow. Reduced blood flow to the feet will make them feel cold.

In addition to this symptom there is often pain when walking. Think of PVD as “heart disease in the legs.”

The process that causes narrowing of the heart’s coronary arteries is the same process that reduces the diameter of the leg’s arteries.

What is Raynaud’s disease?

This is far less serious than PVD, and results in cold and numb fingers and toes in response to cold temperature or even mental stress. Small arteries that supply these areas with blood become constricted. The ankles may be affected.

Dr. Gaman says, “If your cold ankles are also painful, seek medical attention. Ankles that are cold intermittently, but are not painful or discolored, are most likely not serious.”

walter gaman, md

Dr. Gaman is a partner at Executive Medicine of Texas and is with the Staying Young Radio Show 2.0 podcast.