Proper blood flow throughout the body is an indispensable requisition for a healthy life. The right amount of blood flow is needed for various bodily functions like movement of the limbs and functioning of various organs. Poor blood circulation is mostly found to occur in the extremities, especially the feet. This results in symptoms that can be mild to severe, as per the underlying cause. Though the condition is usually found in elderly, even kids with congenital heart defects may develop it.

What are the Causes

Poor blood circulation in legs and feet is a condition that may cause damage to the tissues in these parts, causing utter discomfort and a wide array of other symptoms. Apart from the increasing age, there are various other factors that play a key role in causing this problem. They include genetics, lifestyle factors, and medical conditions.

One of the most common causes of poor circulation in feet is peripheral vascular disease, which is otherwise known as peripheral artery disease. This condition is characterized by obstruction or narrowing of the large arteries that are far from the heart and the brain. Most commonly, this occurs in the extremities, especially the feet and the legs. The causes for peripheral vascular disease may also vary, but the most common one is atherosclerosis (narrowing of arterial walls with fatty deposits like cholesterol). Even inflammatory conditions causing narrowing of blood vessels, formation of blood clots, or sudden blockage of blood supply may cause this condition. Other medical conditions that are linked to poor circulation in feet are thyroid disorders, kidney problems, liver diseases, varicose veins, and Raynaud's disease. However, atherosclerosis remains the most common cause for peripheral artery disease, and therefore the risk factors for both are almost similar. These contributory factors include medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Lifestyle factors like smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and lack of exercise are also found to be linked to this condition. Even pregnant women may experience the symptoms of poor blood circulation in feet. The severity of the condition and the nature of the symptoms may vary from one person to another.

Signs and Symptoms

Poor blood circulation in feet and legs may cause various symptoms that may vary with the underlying cause as well as the severity of the condition. The following are some of the common symptoms of this condition.
  • In most cases, these symptoms develop gradually, and the early stages of this condition are characterized by cramping and pain in the legs, buttocks, or feet.
  • In some people, this pain and cramping subside with rest and recur as and when they indulge in normal day-to-day activities, like walking. This is mostly found in the initial stages, due to the impaired blood flow to the muscles that work.
  • As the condition worsens, the affected people may develop foot and leg cramps while sleeping or resting. In other words, the symptoms develop when they remain immobile for a very long time. This is because of the lack of required blood flow to the muscles (the requirement is much less during rest, as compared to that during work).
  • Apart from pain and cramps, some of the affected people may develop swelling of the feet. They may also experience frequent cold feet, which is considered a symbol of low blood circulation (in feet). Cold feet is more commonly experienced at night before sleep, after having certain foods or during periods of immobility.
  • Some may experience severe and sudden leg pain due to formation of a blood clot, which may stop or slow down the blood flow all of a sudden. This is caused by deep vein thrombosis, a condition wherein, a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the legs.
  • It is also seen that cuts and wounds in the legs of those affected with this condition do not heal easily. The condition may also cause diminished hair and nail growth, and the affected leg/foot may turn bluish in some cases.
Apart from the above said symptoms, fatigue is commonly found in those with poor circulation in feet. They may also develop ulcers and sores (in the legs and feet) that may take time to heal. The skin in these parts may get thin, tight as well as shiny.

Treatment and Prevention

As proper blood circulation is necessary for the smooth functioning of the human body, it is very important to seek immediate medical attention in case you suspect blood circulation problems. Poor circulation to the feet could be an indication of some serious health problem. Treatment for poor circulation in feet includes drugs that prevent blood clotting, angioplasty to open up the blocked arteries (using a vein from some other body part to bypass the blocked artery), and medication to control the blood sugar level. Some lifestyle changes like stopping smoking and adopting a regular exercise regimen, can be helpful in preventing poor circulation in foot, and for getting relief from the symptoms of the condition. Increasing the intake of water, and leg and foot massages may also help to some extent. There are several specially-designed products that may prove useful in addressing the problem. They include exercise equipment, bed wedge, leg wedge, and graduated compression hosiery and socks. Take care to stay warm and avoid being immobile for longer periods of time. Proper and timely treatment can address this problem and prevent further complications.

Poor circulation in feet is something that seems very minor, but should not be ignored if the problem persists. If the symptoms are severe and/or persistent, you must consult your doctor immediately. Otherwise too, seek medical attention to rule out the possibility of serious underlying problems.