Are you suffering from poor circulation in your legs or feet? Your circulation system transports blood, nutrients, oxygen, and waste materials around your body. When a specific part of the body doesn’t get adequate blood flow, you may notice symptoms of poor circulation in that area.
Poor circulation is one of the major causes of leg or foot pain. Since there is reduced oxygen getting to vital areas in your body, it can affect the body’s normal functioning. Poor circulation is usually found in the body’s extremities, such as arms and legs, and is generally felt in the fingers and toes.
What’s worse? Poor circulation can cause several health complications. In some cases, it can worsen pre-existing conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. The good news is that this condition isn’t life-threatening, especially if discovered early. This article will discuss the common causes of poor leg or foot circulation with treatment.
Symptoms of Poor Leg Circulation in Legs or Feet
The symptoms of poor leg circulation can vary, but here are some common signs:
- Leg pain or cramping: The most noticeable symptom is pain, cramping, or aching in the legs, especially during physical activity or walking. This discomfort, known as intermittent claudication, typically affects the calf muscles but can also occur in the thighs or buttocks. The pain often subsides with rest.
- Numbness or weakness: Poor circulation can lead to numbness or weakness in the legs or feet. You may experience a tingling or “pins and needles” sensation.
- Cold feet or legs: Reduced blood flow can result in coldness or a noticeable temperature difference between your legs or feet and the rest of your body.
- Skin changes: The skin on your legs or feet may appear pale, shiny, or discolored. In severe cases, it may become dry and thin or develop ulcers or sores that slowly heal.
- Hair loss: Poor circulation can cause hair loss or slow hair growth on the legs and feet.
- Slow toenail or leg hair growth: Toenails and leg hair growth may be slower than usual.
- Weak or absent pulses: A healthcare professional may detect weak or absent pulses in the feet or legs during a physical examination.
Common Causes of poor circulation in Legs or Feet
There are several different causes of poor circulation in the body, including:
Unfortunately, as we grow older, our circulatory system slows down, and our aorta becomes thicker and less agile. This unavoidable decline in our blood circulation can affect blood pressure, which in turn causes poor circulation in our legs or feet.
Peripheral artery disease
Peripheral artery disease is a circulatory condition that occurs when your arteries and other blood vessels stiffen and becomes narrow. It usually arises from the accumulation of plaque in the blood vessels.
Atherosclerosis also causes arteries to stiffen, which can also cause poor circulation in the legs and feet. Although PAD is common in adults over 50, it can affect individuals of any age.
In rare cases, peripheral artery disease that affects your carotid arteries may result in a stroke. PAD in the heart arteries can also make you prone to heart cancer, so it is crucial PAD is treated early.
Symptoms of PAD in feet include:
- Pain, Tingling, or Numbness
- Nerve damage or Tissue damage
Top tip: Excess smoking can make one prone to developing PAD early in life.
Blood clots develop as a mechanism to prevent you from losing too much blood in certain instances, such as an exterior injury. When blood clots develop inside the body, it can become a life-threatening condition.
However, Blood clots will also restrict the easy flow of blood in the body. Blood clots usually happen when your blood clumps into a semi-liquid or gel-like state.
When blood clots form in your arms or legs, it can result in poor circulation. However, if your blood clots are diagnosed early, they can be treated successfully.
Varicose veins are enlarged, swollen, or twisted veins caused by valve failure. This condition appears when blood fills up in the vein, and they’re very common in the legs.
Since the varicose vein can’t move blood as efficiently as other veins, you may experience poor leg circulation.
In rare cases, varicose veins can also result in blood clots. Although varicose veins can affect anyone, women, obese individuals, and people with a family history of varicose veins are more prone to the condition.
Diabetes is a common medical condition that affects your blood sugar. In some cases, diabetes can also cause poor circulation in the legs or feet.
Unfortunately, most people with advanced diabetes may find it challenging to detect poor leg circulation. This is because diabetics can affect feelings of sensation in the body’s extremities.
Being overweight puts weights on your legs, and this excess weight can cause poor circulation in your legs or feet.
For example, sitting or standing in one position for several hours can cause poor leg circulation. Obesity also makes you prone to other causes of poor circulation, including varicose veins and blood vessel problems.
Raynaud’s disease is a rare disease that causes the small arteries in your hands and toes to narrow. These narrowed arteries can’t move blood through your body so you may experience symptoms of poor circulation.
The symptoms of Raynaud’s disease mostly flare up when you’re in freezing temperatures or feeling unusually stressed. Although the fingers and toes are commonly affected, Raynaud’s disease can also affect the nose, nipples, lips, and ears.
Staying in one place for an extended period can lead to poor circulation in your body. Your body needs movement to ensure blood flows properly. Older people who cannot move around quickly are more prone to poor leg or foot circulation.
Diagnosing poor circulation in the legs or feet
Unfortunately, poor circulation can be a symptom of numerous health conditions, so it is not always easy to diagnose.
If you are experiencing symptoms of poor circulation in your legs, you must reveal any known family history of poor circulation and related conditions. This information can help your doctor diagnose the symptoms, assess your risk factors, and determine the most appropriate diagnostic tests you may need.
Other tests for diagnosing poor circulation include:
- Blood testing for high levels of D dimer
- An ultrasound or CT scan
- A blood sugar test or Blood pressure tests
How to get rid of poor circulation in the legs or feet
1. Lifestyle Changes for Better Circulation
To improve circulation in the legs and feet, making certain lifestyle changes can have a significant impact. Consider implementing the following practices:
Maintain a Healthy Diet
A well-balanced diet plays a crucial role in promoting circulation. Incorporate foods rich in nutrients like:
- Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts)
- Antioxidants (found in fruits and vegetables)
- Fiber (found in whole grains, legumes, and nuts)
Avoid excessive consumption of processed foods, sugary snacks, and foods high in saturated fats, as they can contribute to poor circulation and other health issues.
Stay Physically Active
Regular exercise is vital for maintaining optimal circulation. Physical activities such as walking, swimming, cycling, or dancing can help improve blood flow to the legs and feet. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
Manage Stress Levels
Chronic stress can negatively impact circulation. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as practicing meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies that bring joy and relaxation. Taking breaks, spending time in nature, and getting enough sleep are also essential for stress management and overall well-being.
2. Exercise to Improve Circulation
Exercise is an effective way to boost circulation in the legs and feet. Incorporate the following exercises into your routine:
Walking is a low-impact exercise that people of all fitness levels can do. It helps improve blood flow and strengthens the leg muscles. Aim for brisk walks for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Performing leg exercises can enhance circulation and promote leg strength. Some beneficial activities include:
- Leg lifts
- Ankle circles
- Calf raises
These exercises target the muscles in the legs and stimulate blood flow, helping to alleviate poor circulation.
Yoga and Stretching
Practicing yoga and engaging in stretching exercises can enhance flexibility and circulation. Poses like the downward-facing dog, standing forward bend, and legs-up-the-wall pose is beneficial for improving blood flow to the legs and feet.
3. Massage and Hydrotherapy
Massage and hydrotherapy techniques can provide immediate relief and improve circulation in the legs and feet.
Benefits of Massage for Circulation
Massage therapy helps stimulate blood flow, reduce muscle tension, and alleviate discomfort associated with poor circulation. Techniques such as effleurage, kneading, and friction can enhance blood circulation and promote relaxation. Consider seeking professional massage therapy or using self-massage techniques for better circulation.
Hydrotherapy involves using water for therapeutic purposes and can benefit poor circulation. Techniques like contrast baths (alternating between hot and cold water) and foot soaks can improve blood flow to the legs and feet. Consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified therapist to determine the most suitable hydrotherapy techniques for your condition.
4. Compression Therapy
Compression therapy involves specialized garments that apply pressure to the legs and feet, aiding blood flow. This therapy is commonly used for managing conditions like varicose veins and edema.
Understanding Compression Therapy
Compression stockings or socks work by squeezing the legs, helping veins and leg muscles move blood back to the heart more efficiently. They are available in various compression levels, so it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional to determine the right compression strength for your needs.
Types of Compression Garments
Compression garments come in different styles, including knee-high socks, thigh-high stockings, and full-length tights. They can be purchased over the counter or obtained through a prescription. It’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable type and compression level for your specific condition.
5. Foot Care Tips
Proper foot care is crucial for improving circulation and maintaining healthy feet. Consider the following tips:
Proper Foot Hygiene
Practice good foot hygiene by washing your feet daily with mild soap and warm water. Dry your feet thoroughly, especially the areas between the toes. Moisturize your feet to prevent dryness and cracking, but avoid applying lotion between the toes to prevent moisture buildup.
Choosing Appropriate Footwear
Wearing comfortable and supportive footwear is essential for promoting circulation. Opt for shoes that provide adequate arch support, cushioning, and a wide toe box. Avoid high heels and tight-fitting shoes that restrict blood flow and contribute to foot discomfort.
Foot Exercises and Elevation
Simple foot exercises, such as ankle rotations, toe curls, and foot stretches, can help improve foot circulation. Elevating your legs and feet above heart level for short periods throughout the day can promote blood flow and reduce swelling.
6. Natural Remedies for Improved Circulation
In addition to lifestyle changes and medical interventions, certain natural remedies can assist in improving circulation in the legs and feet. Consider the following options:
Ginger has long been used for its medicinal properties, including enhancing blood circulation. Incorporate ginger into your diet by adding it to teas, smoothies, or meals. Alternatively, you can use ginger essential oil in a massage blend for topical application.
Cayenne pepper contains a compound called capsaicin, which helps improve blood circulation. Incorporate cayenne pepper into your diet by adding it to dishes or taking it in capsule form, following the recommended dosage.
Ginkgo biloba is a herb known for its potential to improve blood circulation. It helps dilate blood vessels and reduce inflammation. Consult a healthcare professional for guidance on the appropriate dosage and usage of ginkgo biloba supplements.
7. Medical Treatments and Interventions
Medical treatments and interventions may sometimes be necessary to address severe or underlying circulatory issues. Consult with a healthcare professional to discuss the following options:
Medications for Circulatory Issues
Certain medications, such as antiplatelet drugs, anticoagulants, and vasodilators, may be prescribed to improve circulation, manage blood clotting, or dilate blood vessels. These medications should only be taken under medical supervision.
In more severe cases of poor circulation, surgical procedures may be recommended. Examples include angioplasty, bypass surgery, or the removal of blockages in the arteries. These procedures aim to restore proper blood flow to the legs and feet.