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New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center

Symptoms of Poor Circulation in the Body | Vascular Issues

Not only is poor blood circulation in the legs and feet uncomfortable, but it can also lead to various life-threatening problems if it goes undetected. Seek prompt medical attention if you experience symptoms like pain, cramps, and numbness in the hands, legs, and feet. They can result from various ailments that affect your quality of life. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Steven Reisman at the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center to know how to deal with poor circulation and what are the best treatment options to avoid discomfort and future complications.

Poor blood circulation is not a condition on its own. It can result in multiple health problems if it is not addressed timely.

Every part of the body relies on a healthy circulatory system to keep your organs supplied with oxygen. Poor circulation often goes unidentified for many years, until the symptoms make themselves known, which is usually at the later stages of the disease. The signs of weak blood circulation are a warning that gives you a chance to notice what is going wrong and improve your condition.

What Are the Symptoms of Poor Circulation?

Poor circulation symptoms are easy to recognize. When blood fails to flow properly, your extremities will fluctuate in temperature. The restricted blood flow causes numbness, and the blood that fails to return to the heart causes swelling. They include:

  • Muscle cramping;
  • Constant foot pain;
  • Pain and throbbing in the arms and legs;
  • Fatigue;
  • Varicose veins;
  • Digestive issues;
  • Leg cramps while walking;
  • Wounds that don’t heal easily, in the legs, feet, and toes;
  • Cognitive dysfunction such as confusion or memory loss due to lack of oxygen and blood to the brain;
  • Tingling in the extremities such as fingers, hands, arms, legs, feet, and toes;
  • Numbness, swelling, and heaviness in the extremities;
  • Pale or blue skin due to lack of blood flow.

Poor circulation in feet can even lead to gangrene of the extremities, which is the death of body tissues. In severe cases, amputation might become necessary to save the limb.

All these signs indicate that the blood is not moving the right way through your body, and the organs are not getting the nutrients they require to function normally. Everyone experiences numbness in the arms or legs from time to time. Persistent numbness along with other symptoms must be checked by a doctor to determine its causes.

How Does the Circulatory System Works?

The circulatory system is made up of blood vessels that carry the blood to and from the heart. Arteries transport oxygen, hormones, and nutrients from the heart to the rest of your body. Veins return the blood to the heart to have it oxygenated. The valves in the veins keep the blood going in the right direction.

All the blood vessels are one way, and the blood flows only in one direction. To ensure proper circulation and a healthy heart and body the blood vessels must be free of all diseases and support the easy flow of blood.

What Causes Poor Circulation?

Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease
Symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease

There are many diseases of the circulatory system, and any one of them could cause poor circulation. It is significant to figure out the possible cause or disease behind circulatory problems rather than just treating the symptoms. Treating circulation diseases timely is crucial for a healthy body and heart. The most common vascular diseases, also known as the diseases of the circulatory system are:

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) results from atherosclerosis, a disorder of the blood vessels outside the heart and brain. In this condition, the arteries become narrow and fail to supply the required amount of blood to the outer parts of your body, like arms and legs. The arteries get narrow or blocked due to a buildup of fatty deposits, plaque, and cholesterol or blood clots. It is a form of peripheral vascular disease that affects circulation in the arteries.

People with diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are at a higher risk of developing peripheral artery disease. Chain smokers also have a higher risk of suffering from peripheral artery disease as compared to people who do not smoke. Patients with pre-existing coronary artery disease or kidney failure are also at an increased risk.

Its most common symptoms are numbness, cramps, and pain in the legs that start when you are moving and go away when you rest. If left untreated, peripheral artery disease can lead to serious leg pain and may suggest a blood clot. It can also result in an inability to walk, gangrene, and even amputation. Blood clots in the legs can be critical as they disrupt the flow of blood.

Do not ignore your symptoms of peripheral artery disease. Visit an experienced doctor to know more about your condition and find the best treatment options to live a better quality of life, free of pain and risks of heart disease.

Cerebral atherosclerosis

Cerebral atherosclerosis is blockage of the carotid arteries that supply blood to the brain. It occurs when the walls of the arteries in the brain thicken and harden. Symptoms of cerebral arteriosclerosis include headache, facial pain, and impaired vision. It is a serious health concern that can lead to a life-threatening situation if it is not addressed timely.

If the walls of an artery become too thick or a blood clot is caught in the narrow passage, blood flow to the brain is affected, which can lead to ischemic stroke. If the thickening and hardening of the arteries is uneven, the arterial walls can develop bulges known as aneurysms. In case of bulge rupture, bleeding in the brain can cause hemorrhagic stroke. Signs of a stroke are weakness in the arm or leg, paralysis, blindness in one or both eyes, facial droop, and difficulty in speaking.

Risk factors for cerebral atherosclerosis include peripheral artery disease. Consult a medical professional to have your condition accurately diagnosed to treat the blockage and prevent a stroke.

Venous diseases

Venous diseases damage the valves in the veins, allowing the blood to leak backward or flow in both directions. There are many venous diseases, but the most commonly faced ones are chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins.

Chronic venous insufficiency

This condition occurs when the venous walls or the valves in the lower extremities, particularly leg veins fail to work efficiently. It makes it difficult for the veins to pump the blood back to the heart, and as a result, blood begins to pool or collect in these veins, causing pain, discomfort, and increased pressure on the veins.

Varicose veins

Varicose veins are caused by damaged or faulty valves that allow the blood to travel in the wrong direction or pool in the lower legs. They appear like twisted, bulging, dark-colored veins beneath the skin surface that become painful with time.

Varicose veins are mostly found in legs, and if left untreated, can result in serious complications. Swollen veins cause blood to flow less efficiently, which leads to poor circulation in the legs and other health problems.

Treatment methods for chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins include short, non-invasive procedures. They include sclerotherapy, laser therapy, and ambulatory phlebectomy. With these procedures, the damaged veins are closed, and the blood moves on to the healthier veins.


An aneurysm is the weakening of an artery or blood vessel wall that becomes enlarged or bulges out. In most cases, aneurysms do not have any symptoms and are not dangerous, but if they rupture, it can lead to internal bleeding and stroke. In severe cases, an aneurysm can be fatal depending on its location.

Most patients fail to realize they have an aneurysm until it has ruptured. Smoking, deep wounds and infections, advanced age, and high blood pressure increase the risk of developing an aneurysm. Aneurysms are mostly located in the brain, behind the knee, in the intestine, and in the spleen.

An experienced doctor can help to diagnose and treat aneurysms and prevent them from rupturing.

Blood clot

A blood clot is a clump of blood that has changed from liquid to a gel-like or semisolid state. It occurs when any blood vessel in the body has a blockage. When a clot forms inside one of the veins, it does not dissolve on its own. It can be harmful if it dislodges and starts moving within the circulatory system, leading to life-threatening situations.

If the blood clot travels to the lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism. If the blood clot travels to the heart it can result in a heart attack, and if it reaches the brain, it can cause a stroke.

Throbbing or cramping pain, swelling, tenderness, shortness of breath, a warm sensation, and discoloration in your legs or arms are common symptoms of a blood clot. You should seek immediate medical help to prevent blood clotting and keep up the normal blood flow.

Other related conditions and causes

Some other medical conditions that can give way to poor circulation include:

These are not circulatory diseases, but they are critical health conditions that should not be ignored. High blood pressure mainly develops from poor diet and lack of exercise. It can be a warning sign for deteriorating vascular health and needs medical care. Inactive lifestyle, increasing age, and obesity are also risk factors for poor circulation. Some people over the age of 65 are diagnosed with blood circulation problems. It is most likely due to their sedentary lifestyle and other health problems.

Caring for your circulatory system is essential as it plays a significant role in keeping your body healthy, active and prevents other life-threatening conditions.

How to Improve Your Blood Circulation?

You can maintain better blood circulation with an appropriate diet, hydration, and regular exercise.

Diet: Eliminating processed foods and incorporating more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits into your diet can boost circulation and keep your body fit. If you have any health conditions, consult your doctor regarding your diet or before making any major change to avoid problems. Adding healthy foods to your diet, such as cayenne pepper, beets, berries, fish, and other iron-rich foods can also improve vascular health.

Hydration: Staying hydrated is essential for improving circulation. Experts recommend drinking at least 6 to 9 glasses of water during the day, depending on your lifestyle, age and weight.

Exercise: A regular workout is essential for moving blood around the body and promoting circulation. Exercises to improve vascular health and circulation include walking, biking, swimming, push-ups, and weight training that raise the heart rate and keep the body active.

Yoga can also help in returning blood to the heart more efficiently.

Managing stress, avoiding smoking, and even getting regular massages are good for circulation. Discuss your condition with an experienced physician to make positive changes in your life and prevent vascular issues. He will recommend therapies, remedies, and treatment options to address your specific problems.

Treatment of Poor Circulation

Vascular diseases can be dangerous if they are left untreated as they result in poor circulation and blood clotting. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience signs of a blood clot or stroke. These conditions can only be treated if they are detected and diagnosed in a timely manner.

Treating vascular issues is not easy, especially when you do not know what is causing them or which condition is the main culprit. Report your symptoms to a healthcare professional to receive appropriate advice regarding treatment and adopt a healthy lifestyle to avoid further complications.

Dr. Steven Reisman relies on state-of-the-art diagnostic tests and screening to identify vascular problems and offers personalized and accessible treatment options to help you stay healthy. He will also recommend blood tests, take your medical history and conduct a physical examination to determine what is causing your symptoms of poor blood circulation and how to best address the issue. The expert doctor uses a multidisciplinary approach to come up with positive solutions to manage circulation and improve your quality of life.

Dr. Steven Reisman | Cardiologist in New York City

Dr. Steven Reisman is an internationally recognized cardiologist and heart specialist. He is a member of the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, and a founding member of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology.

Dr. Reisman has presented original research findings for the early detection of "high risk" heart disease and severe coronary artery disease at the annual meetings of both the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. Dr. Reisman was part of a group of doctors with the Food and Drug Administration who evaluated the dipyridamole thallium testing technique before the FDA approved it.

Dr. Steven Reisman's academic appointments include Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of California and Assistant Professor at SUNY. Hospital appointments include the Director of Nuclear Cardiology at the Long Island College Hospital.

This page was published on Oct 25, 2021, modified on Dec 13, 2021 by Dr. Reisman (Cardiologist) of New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center

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