Causes of Cold Knees and How to Treat Them

Cold Wet Feeling on Knee (CWS) is one of the most common complaints among patients with knee pain. CWS is caused by various factors such as:

Injury or inflammation of cartilage, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues in your knee joint.

Trauma to the kneecap due to falls, sports injuries, car accidents and other causes.

The main cause of CWS is trauma to the cartilage in your knee joint. Traumatic injury to the cartilage can occur when you fall, get hit by a ball or other object, have a fall during sports activities or even if you get kicked in the leg while playing football.

Another reason for CWS is degenerative changes in cartilage. These changes may result from aging, repetitive motion and/or overuse of your knee joint. Some examples include:

Torn or damaged cartilage which leads to swelling and pain.

Ligament damage which results in pain and stiffness.

Nerve irritation leading to numbness and tingling.

Other conditions like osteoarthritis can lead to symptoms similar to those of CWS. Osteoarthritis occurs when there is wear and tear on the cartilage in your joints resulting in pain, weakness, loss of range of motion and eventually complete inability to move your knee normally.

Cold Knees Thyroid:

If you have cold knees and they are aching, swollen or tender to touch, then it is possible that you may be suffering from an underactive thyroid. The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped organ at the front of your throat that produces hormones that control how fast your entire body works. If your body isn’t working at the right speed, you may suffer from a number of different symptoms across many parts of your body.

The thyroid gland needs iodine to work properly and if you don’t get enough of this mineral in your diet, your thyroid won’t be able to produce the hormones that your body needs to function correctly. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid, also known as hypothyroidism, can include cold feet and hands, weight gain, a pale and puffy face, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, depression, dizziness and infertility.

If you think you may be suffering from a thyroid problem, see your doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment. There are a number of treatments available for thyroid problems ranging from taking thyroid hormones to remove the thyroid gland completely.

Cold Knees Arthritis:

A common cause of cold feet and cold feeling in your knees is arthritis. There are two common forms of arthritis which can cause pain, swelling and even changes in temperature in your feet or knees. These are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and affects more than ten million people in the US. Osteoarthritis is most commonly found in people aged over fifty, particularly those who are overweight or have a physical job. The causes of osteoarthritis are unknown but it is thought to be related to aging and being overweight. It is also more common in people who have had severe joint injuries in the past.

The symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain, tenderness and swelling. As the disease progresses, you may experience difficulties with day-to-day tasks involving the joint, worsening pain and limited range of motion.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which causes painful swelling in your joints. While it can affect any joint in your body, it most commonly affects your hands, feet, wrists, elbows and knees. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis but there are treatments available to help relieve the pain and reduce inflammation.

Treatments for arthritis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and in more serious cases, corticosteroid injections. Your doctor may also prescribe a disease modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) such as methotrexate or aSupportive footwear is also recommended to take the pressure off your feet and knees.

Cold Knees Diabetes:

If you have cold knees and are experiencing other symptoms such as excessive thirst, increased need to urinate and unexplained weight loss, then it is possible that you could be suffering from diabetes. Diabetes is a life-long condition that occurs when your body can’t produce or use insulin efficiently.

When you eat food, the carbohydrates that you eat are turned into glucose which is then absorbed into your blood stream.

Insulin is a hormone that allows the glucose to enter your cells so that it can be used for energy. Diabetes occurs when your body either can’t produce enough insulin or the insulin that your body produces doesn’t work properly. This means that the glucose in your blood stream isn’t absorbed into your cells and stays in your blood stream where it can cause a number of serious health issues.

The two most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body can’t produce any insulin while in type 2 diabetes, the cells don’t respond normally to the insulin that your body produces so your pancreas makes extra to compensate.

Patients with type 2 diabetes are usually diagnosed at a later age than those with type 1 and are usually overweight or obese. However, in recent years more and more children have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, particularly children of Pacific Island and Aboriginal descent. This has led to concerns that type 2 diabetes is no longer a disease that solely affects overweight adults but one that can affect all age groups.

If you think you may have type 2 diabetes, you should consult your doctor who will perform a blood test to check your glucose levels and possibly a fasting plasma glucose test to verify the results.

There is no cure for diabetes but it can be managed by carefully monitoring your glucose levels and by following a controlled diet. Most patients with type 2 diabetes can manage their condition through diet and exercise alone but some may require insulin injections or tablets.

The symptoms of cold knees and other symptoms of diabetes can include weight loss, excessive hunger, increased thirst, irritability and blurred vision.

Any patient that is diagnosed with cold knees should see their doctor immediately so that the cause of their symptoms can be determined.

Treatment options for patients with diabetes depend on what type of diabetes they have.

Patients with type 1 diabetes will require insulin injections. Patients with type 2 diabetes may be prescribed a combination of insulin and tablets.

Both groups should follow a controlled diet and should monitor their blood glucose levels regularly either at home or at their doctor’s surgery.

It is important that patients with cold knees keep themselves well hydrated and get plenty of rest to help ease the pain and give their bodies chance to heal naturally.

Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc

Further Reading

Cold feet – Common medical condition experienced by many, but actually not very well understood.

Hot knees – Learn more about the causes and conditions that can give you hot knees and other leg pains.

Shingles – A look at the symptoms and treatment options for this painful condition also known as herpes zoster.

Spider bite – Learn more about the symptoms and treatment options for a spider bite.

Swimmer’s ear – Also known as acute infection of the outer ear, learn more about the symptoms and treatment options here.

Thrush – Find out more about this infection of the mouth and throat.

warts – Learn more about the causes and treatment options for warts.

Sources & references used in this article:

Rehabilitation of the child with a rheumatic disease by HM Emery, SL Bowyer, CE Sisung – Pediatric Clinics, 1995 –

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy of the knee: causes, diagnosis, and treatment by SJ O’Brien, J Ngeow, MA Gibney… – … of Sports Medicine, 1995 –

Effect of cold, warm or contrast therapy on controlling knee osteoarthritis associated problems by AE Shehata, ME Fareed – Int J Med Health Pharm Biomed …, 2013 –