Poor circulation reduces blood flow to various body parts. It can cause numbness, tingling, and swelling. Conditions such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and blood clots can cause poor circulation.
Treatment for poor circulation will depend on the underlying cause but may include lifestyle changes, including more exercise, a healthful diet, and maintaining a moderate weight.
This article explains the symptoms, causes, and treatments for poor circulation.
Poor circulation occurs when the circulatory system cannot pump blood effectively to all parts of the body. This causes a drop in blood, oxygen, and nutrient delivery to affected areas.
Poor circulation typically affects a person’s furthest extremities, such as the hands and feet.
The symptoms of poor circulation may not always be apparent. However, poor circulation can be dangerous whether symptoms are obvious or not. Below are some potential symptoms of poor circulation.
Numbness and tingling in extremities
One of the most common symptoms of poor circulation is numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
When something restricts blood flow, and it cannot reach the extremities in sufficient quantities, a person may also have a sensation of pins and needles.
Cold hands and feet
When blood cannot flow at typical rates, a person may experience temperature fluctuations in the skin and nerve endings of the hands and feet.
Poor blood circulation
Digestion relies upon blood flow, and poor circulation can cause certain gastrointestinal issues.
Digestive problems that could indicate poor blood flow include:
Poor blood flow affects muscular strength and may increase fatigue.
Joint pain and muscle cramping
Poor circulation can cause pain in the legs, feet, arms, and hands. Cold hands and feet may ache or throb, especially as they start to warm and blood flow returns.
Also, when the blood does not circulate correctly, oxygen and nutrients cannot reach tissues effectively, resulting in stiffness and cramping.
Skin color changes
When insufficient arterial blood reaches the body’s tissues, the skin may appear paler than usual. If blood is leaking from capillaries, these areas may appear purple.
The following areas may be discolored:
Poor circulation can affect the body’s ability to heal, which can lead to ulcers in the legs and feet.
Ulcers can also develop when blood pools in the veins of the legs, causing swelling beneath the skin.
Various conditions can cause poor circulation, including:
This buildup eventually narrows and hardens the arteries, eventually restricting blood flow. Atherosclerosis commonly affects the arteries of the:
Peripheral artery disease
When atherosclerosis develops in the upper and lower limbs, this is called peripheral artery disease (PAD).
- leg pain
- pain when walking
Treatment and reducing risk factors for PAD is vital to reduce the risk of long-term complications.
Over time, high blood glucose levels
Diabetes can also cause nerve damage, and high levels of glucose may
A clot in a blood vessel
A blood clot can be painful. If a clot travels, it
Blood clots can develop anywhere in the body and lead to circulation problems. However, if a doctor detects them early, treatment can be successful.
Extra weight can reduce blood flow to the brain and far extremities.
Overweight and obesity are also risk factors for other conditions that can contribute to poor circulation, including:
- heart disease
This condition causes blood vessels to narrow. Narrowed vessels and restricted blood flow
Smoking tobacco products
Smoking tobacco products can narrow blood vessels, increase plaque buildup, and
These effects increase the risk of:
- heart disease
- heart attacks
According to the British Heart Foundation, physical inactivity can contribute to circulatory problems by causing fat buildups in the arteries.
Physical inactivity can
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
Poor circulation occurs with a range of health conditions. Before making a diagnosis, a doctor will consider a person’s:
- risk factors
- related conditions
- family medical history
- the results of a physical examination
The doctor will then order tests, which may include:
- blood sugar testing for diabetes
- blood tests to detect inflammatory conditions
- ultrasound or CT imaging to examine the blood vessels and check for clots
- an ankle-brachial index to check for PAD
A diagnosis will allow a doctor to determine the best cause of treatment.
Treatment for poor circulation will depend on the underlying cause. In some cases, doctors
- medications to control blood pressure, such as:
- anticoagulant medications, such as:
Doctors may also suggest lifestyle changes to improve circulation and reduce the risk of health conditions that can cause poor circulation. These changes may include:
- quitting smoking
- regularly exercising
- achieving or maintaining a moderate weight
- eating a healthful diet
Conditions that cause poor circulation are easier to treat when a doctor detects them early.
If a person does not receive treatment, they may develop life threatening complications, including blood clots and infected skin ulcers.
It is essential to report symptoms of poor circulation to a doctor, to receive appropriate treatment, and to maintain a healthful lifestyle.