Got hands and feet that feel like ice, ice baby? If your extremities regularly feel cold, painful, or tingly, you may have poor circulation. Poor circulation can manifest in your body as frequent swelling and cramping in your feet or legs, or pain in those areas when you walk. Read on for tips on how to treat and prevent poor circulation and get your blood flow moving!
Causes and Symptoms
Your circulatory system delivers life-supporting blood throughout your body.
It allows your heart to beat, your body to move, and your brain to perform. When this natural blood flow isn’t working properly, it can lead to symptoms that initially appear in the feet and legs, such as:
- Fatigue or cramping during activity
- Cramping during inactivity
- Swelling and achiness
- Persistent coldness (that icy feeling in your extremities)
Poor circulation is often a sign of other health issues, such as obesity, high blood pressure or cholesterol, and diabetes. Another common cause of poor circulation is peripheral vascular disease (PVD), a condition that restricts normal blood flow to and from the heart. A related condition, venous insufficiency, occurs when your veins are unable to effectively send blood from your legs back to your heart. This condition may result in severe leg swelling, varicose veins, and skin discoloration. Talk to your physician to best identify the root cause of your poor circulation.
Certain behaviors can lead to poor circulation or make it worse, such as:
- Tobacco smoking
- Lack of regular exercise
- Improper diet
- Sitting or standing in one place for long periods of time
Self- Assessment Quiz
- Are my toes red, purple, or blue?
- Do I have unexplained hair loss on my legs and feet?
- Are my feet and hands often excessively cool?
- Do my feet “fall asleep” easily?
- Do my feet feel better if I hang them over the edge of my bed?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have poor circulation.
Are There Any Serious Concerns with Poor Circulation?
Because blood flow supports crucial bodily functions, circulation problems require special concern. In addition to potentially indicating more serious medical conditions, poor circulation may provoke deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT can occur when a vein is damaged or blood flow stops because of poor circulation, leading to a sudden, deep blood clot in the leg, accompanied by severe pain.
If you are obese and/or over age 40 and have poor circulation, you are at a higher risk for developing life-threatening DVT.
How Do I Treat and Prevent Poor Circulation?
Because poor circulation may be related to other medical conditions, it’s best to consult with your general physician or vascular specialist to assess your overall health and blood flow. After a medical checkup, you can treat poor circulation by changing unhealthy behaviors and managing any medical conditions that may be causing it. You should:
- Stop smoking cigarettes.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range.
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid long periods of immobility.
- Elevate your legs. Sitting in a recliner with your legs up can be a great, simple remedy for poor circulation.
- Use special equipment, such as leg massagers and exercisers to stimulate circulation and improve blood flow.
- Wear support hosiery or socks to improve circulation. If you’re wearing them for the first time, start by wearing light to moderate support products so that you grow accustomed to the tighter feel of graduated support.