About Poor Blood Circulation

  • 1st Revision: Emma Soopramanien
  • 2nd Revision: Conor Hodges [Linkedin]
  • 3rd Revision: Lucy Walker

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Have you ever experienced a sudden numbness in one of your toes, or sudden swelling of the ankle? You may have disregarded the pain, thinking it was caused either due to prolonged wearing of shoes or overworking. However, these may indicate poor blood circulation in the lower body. 

Here, we address the need for good circulation and explain the causes and symptoms of poor circulation. By the end of this article, you will be aware of the warning signs of poor blood circulation, and the steps that can be made to improve circulation.

Circulation is a process carried out by the cardiovascular system (heart, veins, and arteries) where it pumps blood through blood vessels to our cells, providing sufficient oxygen and nutrients for the cells to function. It is important to have good circulation for the body to function properly.

Causes of Poor Blood Circulation

Poor circulation is primarily caused by the build-up of fatty materials in the walls of blood vessels. This process, known as atherosclerosis, results in the hardening of the blood vessels.

In peripheral arterial disease (PAD), the arteries are blocked by fatty deposits, which makes them narrow and results in restricted blood flow through the body. PAD is also known as intermittent claudication in medical terms, and primarily restricts the blood flow in hands and legs.

You can often experience symptoms of poor circulation in the arms and legs. It is necessary to consult your doctor immediately with signs of poor circulation as this may  indicate underlying serious health conditions, such as a heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.

7 Signs of Poor Circulation

1. Muscle fatigue

A common symptom of poor circulation is pain or cramps in leg or hip muscles, felt during physical activity such as  walking or climbing stairs.This can often be misunderstood as pain caused by overexertion or body weakness.

2. Numbness and weakness in the lower body

Poor blood supply due to atherosclerosis results in numbness in the extremities (arms, legs, hand, feet) while moving or even when sitting idle. When numbness is accompanied by slurred speech and drooping of facial muscles, this is an emergency and you should immediately call an ambulance or ask for assistance.

A lack of blood circulation also makes it harder for doctors to check the pulse.The most common method doctors use to check for blood circulation is to check the pulse in the legs and groin.

3. Cold feet, Varicose Veins and Non-Healing Sores

Low blood circulation tends to produce coldness in one foot, hand, or leg more than the other. You may also notice swelling in your extremities, particularly in your legs and feet, when blood supply is restricted to the kidneys.

Valves of the vein become weak due to continuous pumping of blood with increased force, which increases pressure and results in the swelling of veins in the feet or ankle, which become either blue or purple.

Another common sign is non-healing sores on your feet or legs. If you have diabetes, ulcers, or infections in the lower body, sores take a longer time to heal  due to restricted blood supply. 

4. Chest Pain or Angina

Chest pain or angina is caused due to poor blood circulation in the cardiovascular system. This may be an indication of a heart attack caused due to atherosclerosis.

5. Weaker Immune, Poor Digestion, Dry Skin, and Hair Loss

The restricted blood flow throughout the body can slow down the production of antibody resulting in a weaker immune system. Poor blood circulation can also reduce the rate of digestive processes, possibly resulting in constipation. Extremities receive insufficient nutrients, and may cause dry skin, brittle nails, and hair loss.

6. Erectile Dysfunction

Low blood circulation can cause erectile dysfunction in people assigned male at birth due to low blood circulation in the groin area by one or more blocked, clogged, or narrowed arteries.

Steps to Improve Circulation

By adding a few steps to our everyday routine, you can help your body to effectively improve circulation and avoid unnecessary health complications. Try the steps outlined below: 

  1. Maintain a normal blood pressure
  2. Always stay hydrated
  3. Use compression socks
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Reduce coffee intake
  6. Follow a healthy diet
  7. Follow an active lifestyle

References:

  1. NHS, Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) [Internet]. nhs.uk. 31 October 2019 [cited 7 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/peripheral-arterial-disease-pad/
  2.  Royal Brompton & Harefield Specialist Care. 10 warning signs of poor circulation [Internet]. Royal Brompton & Harefield Specialist Care. 15 June 2015 [cited 7 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.rbhh-specialistcare.co.uk/news/10-warning-signs-poor-circulation
  3. Age UK. How to improve your circulation in older age | Age UK Mobility [Internet]. Ageukmobility.co.uk. 26 July 2019 [cited 7 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.ageukmobility.co.uk/mobility-news/article/how-to-improve-your-circulation-in-older-age
  4. Vein Clinics of America, 9 Ways To Improve Circulation & Blood Flow [Internet]. Vein Clinics of America. 2022 [cited 7 February 2022]. Available from: https://www.veinclinics.com/blog/9-ways-to-improve-your-circulation/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Pranitha Ven Murali

Master's degree - Biomedical/Medical Engineering, University of Strathclyde Glasgow, Scotland
Experienced in Medical Writing and Editorial Intern.

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