We all have experienced the sensation when our hands and feet get extremely cold, numb, have a tingling sensation, and sometimes, they even ache! Such an experience is most common during winters, when the breeze is chilly and the temperature is freezing cold. These symptoms may be considered normal if they can be controlled with the help of some warm clothes, hot beverages, and a hot water bottle. However, if these symptoms are becoming bothersome, to an extent that they are affecting your daily routine, then you might be suffering from a condition causing poor circulation in the body - most commonly noticeable in the hands and feet.

Commonly Observed Symptoms

Poor circulation is an indication that the blood is unable to reach the different areas of the body in an adequate manner. Because our arms and legs perform the maximum movement in the body, poor circulation can easily be observed in these parts. So, how does your body indicate that its blood requirements are not being met?

» Numbness
» Feeling cold
» Swelling
» Aches
» Weariness
» Cramps
» Paleness
» Dry Skin
» Clamminess
» Headaches
» Blood clots
» Discoloration of the skin
» Low body temperature

Symptoms in Extremely Severe Conditions

» Ulcers
» Gangrene
» Skin damage resulting from loss of sensation

Commonly Known Causes

We humans are warm-blooded, and therefore, we need proper blood circulation to maintain an ideal temperature (37 degrees Celsius or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in our body. Various disorders can lead to poor circulation, especially in the hands and feet. Some of them are listed as under.

» Raynaud's Syndrome
It is a condition wherein the small arteries of the body narrow down, thereby causing a decreased supply of blood in some areas, mostly the fingers and toes. This condition majorly affects women between the age group of 15-45. Symptoms are mostly experienced during winters. However, what causes this condition is not clear.

» Peripheral Vascular Disease
Also known as the peripheral artery disease, this condition causes hardening of the arteries as a result of fat deposits. The arteries begin to narrow down, eventually resulting in blockage, thereby preventing blood flow to the affected area of the body.

» Heart Diseases
Our heart is the ultimate source of blood supply. Any damage to the blood vessels in the heart can cause an impaired blood supply. Heart diseases are the most common cause for deaths in the United States of America, the most common one being the condition when the arteries of the heart are blocked /narrowed - a condition known as coronary artery disease.

» Buerger's Disease
It is a rare but serious condition wherein inflammation and swelling in the blood vessels occur. This swelling results in the formation of blood clots, thereby infecting and damaging the blood vessels. Advanced stages may lead to gangrene! This condition is mostly found in men under 40 years of age. Another point to be noted is that almost all the people diagnosed with this condition are heavily addicted to tobacco.

» Nerve Disorders
Diabetic neuropathy is a nerve disorder related with diabetes mellitus. When the blood sugar levels in the body are high, it disrupts the functioning of the nerves. Untreated diabetes may cause nerve damage, thereby, causing the hands and feet to go numb and tingly. Other nerve disorders include the carpal tunnel syndrome (a disorder resulting from a pinched nerve), Guillain-Barre syndrome (a disorder resulting from the immune system attacking the body's nerves), and Complex regional pain syndrome (a disorder resulting from an injury thereby affecting the hands and feet).

» Medications
Poor circulation can also be a result of the side effects caused by consuming certain medications. The consumption of beta-blockers which are prescribed by the doctors to treat conditions related to the heart and high blood pressure, can cause poor blood circulation. It is always best to consult your doctor if these medications may be the cause. Do not stop consuming these medications without asking your doctor.

» Acrocyanosis
This condition affects the hands, feet, and face. In acrocyanosis, the skin of these areas tend to become discolored, accompanied with the feeling of being cold and clammy. Inflammation and sweating may also be experienced. Though the cause is unknown, it is trusted that small blood vessels located at the end of the hands, feet, and face, tend to become narrow in this condition.

» Hypothyroidism
The condition wherein the thyroid glands of our body are underactive, which means that the desired amount of thyroid hormone is not being produced by the glands, is known as hypothyroidism. This condition also makes the body more sensitive towards cold. Untreated hypothyroidism can cause problems like peripheral neuropathy and heart problems, that can impair the nerves, thereby causing decreased blood supply all over the body - prominently noticeable in the hands and feet.

» Improper Diet
Proper diet plays a crucial role in the health of the body. Excessive intake of food may lead to problems like obesity - which is related to other health complications like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc. On the other hand, people who do not consume proper diet, or are suffering from a condition like Anorexia Nervosa - where people fear of gaining weight and do not eat properly, are also susceptible to poor blood circulation in the body.

» Stress /Anxiety
Don't our hands and feet go cold when we are under stress or anxiety? It is said that when we feel stressed or anxious, our body increases the blood supply to the major organs, and reduces the blood supply of the skin. It is because of this that when we are stressed, our heart pumps faster, and our hands and feet go cold and numb.

» Chilblains
People with poor circulation may develop this condition. It is a normal mechanism for the blood vessels of our skin to constrict during winters. However, when a person is suffering from chilblains, a sudden exposure to warm temperature during winters can cause inflammation of the blood vessel of the skin. Symptoms like swelling, blisters, discoloration, and ulcers may be seen in the fingers and toes.

» Other Causes
Other causes in the list are mostly related to your lifestyle. Activities like consumption of tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, living a sedentary lifestyle, wearing tight clothes, etc., can lead to poor circulation. Other conditions like pregnancy, kidney diseases, and lung diseases may also cause impaired blood circulation.

Natural Remedies and Treatment

It is needless to say that the most effective treatment option can only be determined after diagnosing the exact cause. After having discussed the nature of conditions that can be associated with poor blood circulation, it is imperative to seek a doctor's advice. However, for causes that are related to our lifestyle, certain natural remedies may prove to be effective in improving the circulation of blood in the body. Some are mentioned as under -

» Exercise
If you have been living a sedentary lifestyle, it's time to get active! To boost circulation in the hands and feet, simple exercises like rotating, wiggling, and flexing your fingers and toes may help. This is a good exercise during work hours. However, after work, going for a 15-20 minute walk, or grabbing a bicycle for a ride would be a good idea.

If you are dealing with stress and anxiety, including certain breathing exercises in your routine would prove to be beneficial. Deep-breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga helps in reducing stress levels and aids blood circulation. It would be wise to consult a doctor so that a proper exercise regimen may be planned out, keeping your health conditions in mind.

» Gentle Massages
A massage therapist would be the best person to get in touch with at the moment, rather than massaging on your own. This is because a massage therapist is a trained professional who knows the amount of pressure that needs to be put, for massages that are done for different health conditions. However, you can always massage your hands and legs gently using diluted essential oils like lavender, cypress, grapefruit, and rosemary. These aid blood circulation in the body.

» Consume the Right Drinks
Say 'no' to drinks that include alcohol and caffeine! Switch them with a healthy cup of herbal tea, lemon and ginger tea, and most importantly - water! Fresh fruit juices like sweet lime and watermelon, are also a good choice.

» Eat the Right Foods
Avoid foods that contain saturated fats! Consume foods that are rich in vitamin A, C, and E. Eat foods rich in fiber like whole grains, raw fruits, vegetables, etc. Oily fish like tuna, salmon, herrings, and trouts are good sources of Omega-3-fatty acids, which help in lowering the cholesterol levels and are extremely good for the health of the heart, and a healthy heart means a healthy circulation of blood! Include ingredients like garlic, chilies, and ginger in your food. These help in stimulating the blood flow.

» Keep Yourself Warm and Comfortable
It is important to keep yourself warm, especially when you know the amount of discomfort that you go through during an attack. Wear gloves and socks. Keep rubbing your hands when you feel the chill, and do not expose them to cold surfaces, unless absolutely avoidable. If you wear clothes /footwear that are tight-fitting, then slip into the ones that are comfortable!

Consult a medical practitioner for proper diagnosis and treatment. The doctor would look into the family history to understand the possible causes of your condition, and prescribe an effective treatment plan to ensure a healthy life ahead. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and curbing your alcohol and tobacco intake should be a priority. Protection from cold is also a must so as to keep the blood flowing.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.