Poor circulation to feet can cause cold feet, as well as swelling and cramping — and sometimes it may even be a sign of deeper issues like diabetes or high blood pressure.
You might have circulation problems if you have red toes, tingling in your feet, or hair loss on your legs. Also, blood clots in the leg can happen when veins are damaged, slowing or even stopping blood flow entirely. Controlling bad blood circulation in feet usually starts with managing unhealthy behaviors. Among them are smoking cigarettes, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
The Science Behind Poor Circulation to Feet
Poor circulation to feet can settle in when the blood vessels in your legs become hard and narrow. Consequently, your feet and legs don’t get enough blood, thereby making it much harder for nutrients and oxygen to reach those areas of the body.
When waste products build up in your soft tissues, you’ll have poor circulation. The skin on the feet and legs can become thin and dry, hair can fall out, and feet can become cold. When you walk short distances, it can also hurt your calf muscles. If poor circulation is present, foot and leg skin easily get infected, inflamed, and ulcerated.
It’s possible to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels by eating healthy, exercising often, and quitting smoking.
Poor Circulation to Feet: The Facts
A plexus of small veins with a diameter of 1 – 2 millimeters makes up the intricate network of your foot’s sole — a structure that’s key to understanding poor circulation to feet. From a functional and biological standpoint, the deepest veins in your foot are the most fascinating ones.
Multiple complex compartments that work like muscle pumps produce the energy needed for blood to overcome what is termed “hydrostatic pressure,” the distance between the heart and leg when you’re standing. This sophisticated network is an amazing part of everyone’s body, as it provides the oxygen and fluid needed to meet the most basic, yet complex, part of living every day. This includes walking.
Medical and health specialists have been experimenting with a variety of successful treatments for veins in the foot. Fortunately, these treatments for bad blood circulation in feet are based on long-term and reliable research.
Causes of Poor Circulation to Feet
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and peripheral artery disease (PAD) can cause poor circulation to feet. What’s more, cold feet due to poor circulation, foot pain from poor circulation, and itchy feet due to poor circulation are usually all related to these main causes.
With PVD, your blood flow slows down and gets worse. PVD is caused by blood vessel narrowing, blockages, or spasms. Blood vessels outside the heart can be affected by PVD, including arteries, veins, and lymphatics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 10 million Americans have PVD. This condition, which affects nearly 20 percent of Americans over 60, can interfere with wound healing, especially in the lower extremities.
When it comes to PAD, plaque buildup results from too much calcium and cholesterol in the bloodstream. Atherosclerosis can be caused by other conditions as well, like obesity and inactivity. These conditions need to be handled once they’re detected. PAD and atherosclerosis can have similar symptoms. Mild cases are usually absent of any symptoms.
Some More Information on PAD and Other Diseases
PAD affects both men and women. The risk of PAD is higher among African Americans. However, there’s a possibility that Hispanics have a similar or slightly higher rate of PAD than non-Hispanics. In the United States, there are 6.5 million people over 40 with PAD. Atherosclerosis may not always be the cause of PAD and other health conditions can mimic those symptoms. There can be a restriction in the amount of blood flowing through the arteries because of this. Vasculitis, or inflammation of the blood vessels, can cause bad blood circulation in feet, as well as your legs.
When you experience stress or cold temperatures, Raynaud’s disease can make your fingers and toes feel icy or numb. Narrow arteries reduce blood flow to your skin, which in turn causes the symptoms.
High blood glucose levels for long periods can damage your blood vessels if you have diabetes. Those same high blood sugar levels can lead to foot ulcers and poor circulation to feet.
Do you have high blood pressure? Arteriosclerosis could be the cause. Artery sclerosis happens when the arteries harden so blood can’t flow easily. Symptoms include chest pressure, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, and confusion.
Lastly, physical inactivity and smoking can also cause poor circulation to feet.
Treatment for Swollen Feet and Poor Circulation
The underlying cause of poor circulation to feet needs to be handled. You should make an appointment with a health specialist for a complete exam.
Additionally, if you want to improve your foot circulation and live a healthier life as you start your treatment journey with a doctor, consider the following tips:
- Exercise often and get moving. You can’t beat walking for exercise. Avoid sitting for long periods. Get up and move by setting a reminder. Caffeine and alcohol can constrict your blood vessels, so you should try to avoid using both.
- Wear compression socks and raise your legs above your heart for 20 minutes a day to improve bad blood circulation in feet and reduce swelling. Socks like these apply pressure to the legs and feet, forcing blood back to the heart.
- Needless to say, you should try to kick the habit of smoking. Cardiovascular disease becomes more of a risk when you smoke.
You won’t get better on your own if you don’t do something about your foot circulation problems. Poor circulation to feet can get worse. With lifestyle changes and the right treatment options, you can improve your situation. It’s important to keep up with your medical appointments, take any medicines you’re prescribed, live a heart-healthy lifestyle, and know the warning signs of serious problems if you have poor circulation.
Here’s what you should ask your doctor:
- Should I take a baby aspirin every day?
- Can I just make life changes or do I need treatment?
- Can you recommend exercises and give more tips for living with foot circulation problems?
Look for a vascular specialist who offers noninvasive diagnosis and intervention, minimally invasive treatment, and state-of-the-art care by a highly skilled multidisciplinary team.
On a side note, remember that blood delivers oxygen and vital nutrients to cells, tissues, and organs throughout the body. Poor circulation to feet can also slow down wound healing, increasing the risk of infection. Supplements are not a treatment for circulation problems; however, they may help with symptoms for some people or generally support heart health.
You can research more about capsaicin, omega-3 fatty acids, beetroot powder, vitamin B3, L-arginine, garlic, curcumin, and more. Supplements don’t guarantee circulation problems will go away, but they may be worth trying. Some supplements and their benefits don’t have much evidence to back their ongoing use for specific health issues. The effectiveness of supplements depends on the underlying cause of circulation problems. A person who’s low in B vitamins might benefit from taking them. Those with underlying diseases might need to take steps to prevent or control those diseases.
Remember that coldness, itchiness, and pain are all signs of bad blood circulation in feet, but there’s more to it than that. A correct diagnosis will shed light on your specific underlying problem and cause.
Despite foot circulation problems that cause pain, numbness can be just as uncomfortable. When your feet become numb, it’s common to experience that pins-and-needles feeling. Not only can this be uncomfortable, but that same numbness can cause balance issues and hide possible foot injuries.
Wellness and Pain
Poor circulation to feet should not be ignored, as it is a serious condition with daily implications for your life and health. You’re better off seeing a doctor who truly cares about you. An evaluation or treatment may include a nerve conduction velocity and electromyography (NCV/EMG) test for nerve damage, orthopedic leg pain remedies, trigger point injections, massage therapy, acupuncture therapy, or IV hydration.
Practitioners at Wellness and Pain confidently provide these important evaluations, apply their professional expertise, and offer the caring, sensitive, and proactive foot circulation treatment you need to improve any symptoms you are experiencing.