Poor Circulation in Feet

Poor Circulation in Feet
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Thisis not a disease in itself, but may be the result of another medical health issue which impedes proper distribution of blood and oxygen to the legs and feet. There are many possible reasons of poor blood circulation to the extremities, which can cause symptoms like pain and numbness of the feet.

Symptoms of Poor Circulation in Feet

Some people who have poor circulation do not have symptoms at all. However, with time, mild to severe symptoms may begin as peripheral artery disease advances. These symptoms may include:

  • Claudication or painful muscle cramps in the hips, thighs, or calves after activity
  • Numbness/weakness of the leg
  • Coldness in the skin of the foot or lower leg
  • A poorly healing wound/ulcer on the leg, foot or toe
  • Changes in skin color
  • Shiny skin on legs
  • Slower hair growth or hair loss on legs and feet
  • Weak pulses in the legs or feet
  • Slow growth of toenails
  • Erectile dysfunction in males

Possible Causes

Poor circulation in feet is often related to other health issues, such as high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, or diabetes. Here are some of them:

  1. Peripheral Artery Disease. A common cause is peripheral vascular disease, a condition characterized by restriction of normal blood flow due to narrowing of the blood vessels and arteries. When the veins are affected, a condition called venous insufficiency occurs, resulting in ineffective delivery of blood to the heart from the legs. This may result in the formation of varicose veins, severe leg swelling, and skin discoloration. An associated condition is called atherosclerosis, which affects the arteries, causing stiffening due to buildup of plaque in the blood vessels. Over time, reduction of blood flow in the legs can cause tingling, numbness, nerve and tissue damage. If left untreated, complications such as a stroke or a heart attack can occur.
  2. Blood Clots. Abnormal clotting of blood inside the blood vessels can partially or completely obstruct blood flow to the legs, leading tothe condition. This also increases your risk of developing life-threatening complications such as pulmonary embolism when a blood clot from the leg breaks away and goes to the lungs.
  3. Varicose Veins. Enlargement of leg veins due to incompetence of the valves in the veins causes inefficient blood flow, leading to poor circulation. Blood clots may also form. Women and overweight or obese people are more likely to develop varicose veins.
  4. Diabetes. One of the complications of diabetes is atherosclerosis and poor circulation, which can lead to cramping in the legs and buttocks. It can also lead to diabetic neuropathy, where the nerves are damaged, causing decreased sensation in the legs and feet.
  5. Obesity. Excess weight puts extra burden on your body. If you’re obese and you spend many hours sitting or standing continuously, you may also suffer from circulation problems due to varicose veins and atherosclerosis.
  6. Raynaud’s Disease. This disease is characterized by having cold hands and feet due to narrowing of the small arteries in these areas. This leads to poor circulation that may lead to coldness of the extremities, especially when you are experiencing stress or when you are exposed to cold weather. Some people also experience coldness in their nose, lips, and ears.

Evaluation and Diagnosis of Poor Circulation in Feet


Take this self-assessment if you think you might have poor circulation:

  • Are your toes red, blue, orpurple?
  • Are you losing hair on your legs and feet?
  • Are your feet excessively cool?
  • Are your feet often numb?
  • Do your feet feel better if they hang over the edge of the bed?

Note: You may have poor circulation if you have at least one YES answer to the questions above.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Physical signs of poor circulation such as poor wound healing may be detected by your doctor. He may also observe weak or absent pulses in your feet or bruits (whooshing sounds) over the affected arteries.

Measuring your ankle-brachial index, which compares blood pressure in the ankle and the arm may aid in the diagnosis. Examination using a Doppler ultrasound and angiography also help in the evaluation of blood flow in the arteries.

Blood testing may be done to measure your blood sugar, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels.

How to Improve Poor Circulation in Feet

1. Don’t Sit or Stand for Too Long

To improve poor circulation, avoid sitting or standing for long periods and instead, move around your home or office throughout the day. Take frequent breaks to help move your leg muscles and improve blood circulation.

2. Exercise

Exercise daily to promote blood circulation in the legs. Ideal activities include walking, biking, running, swimming, hiking, and other leg exercises. Low impact exercises that could also be beneficial include yoga, using positions that involve the legs.

3. Wear Comfortable Shoes

Avoid wearing uncomfortable shoes, such as those with high heels, pointed shoes, or other tight-fitting shoes that can impede blood flow. Instead, wear comfortable shoes with low heels and proper cushioning.

4. Stop Smoking

Smoking increases your risk of developing peripheral artery disease. If you smoke, quit right away and your blood circulation will improve in a few weeks.

5. Take Gingko Supplements

There is some evidence that gingko has medicinal value, including its ability to improve circulation by opening up blood vessels. The recommended dose forginkgo leaf extract is 120-240 mg/day, to be taken in 2-3 divided doses.

6. Eat Less Salt

Too much salt in your diet can cause water retention and leg swelling. This can put pressure on your veins, leading to poor circulation. Reduce your salt intake by cooking your own food, avoiding processed foods, fast foods and junk foods. Keep yourself well hydrated to improve blood circulation.

7. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

If you are obese or overweight, try to lose excess weight by following a healthy, balanced diet and increasing your activity levels. A healthy body weight helps keep your circulatory system working more efficiently.

When to See a Doctor

If you have symptoms of peripheral artery disease and your symptoms do not improve with simple lifestyle changes, consult your doctor for proper treatment. It is important to get treatment before complications such as blood clotting, embolism or stroke occur.

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