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If your feet turn blue when exposed to cold, you may be experiencing the effects of acrocyanosis.

Acrocyanosis is a condition in which your feet and other extremities turn a bluish color in response to cold. The color change affects both sides of your body equally and takes time to reverse. The condition is painless but may be accompanied by localized swelling. Acrocyanosis often occurs by itself but can be associated with a more serious condition, such as a connective tissue disorder. Women are more often affected than men.

Causes of acrocyanosis

Acrocyanosis occurs when the small arteries are suddenly constricted. This reduces blood flow and the amount of oxygen being delivered to the feet and other extremities. Cold temperatures typically trigger the arteries to suddenly constrict, while emotional stress may worsen the symptoms.

There are two forms of the condition, primary and secondary. Primary acrocyanosis occurs by itself, apart from any other condition, while secondary acrocyanosis is associated with a more serious condition, such as a connective tissue disorder.

Acrocyanosis symptoms

Acrocyanosis is a painless condition which may involve: 

  • Bluish discoloration of your feet that lasts for an extended period of time. 
  • Cold, sweaty feet. 
  • Localized swelling.

Treatment of acrocyanosis

Treatment for acrocyanosis typically involves keeping your feet warm and the blood circulating. To do this, cold temperatures should be avoided whenever possible. If you are suffering from acrocyanosis, you may also benefit from wearing insulated boots to keep your feet warm. Insulated socks or thin polypropylene liner socks that keep moisture away from your skin may also help.

Since acrocyanosis could be a sign of a more serious condition such as a connective tissue disorder, it is important to consult a doctor to determine if there is an underlying condition that requires treatment.