Healthy blood circulation is essential for achieving the ultimate health by supplying organs and tissues with freshly oxygenated blood and nutrients from the tip of the head, fingers all the way down to the toes. Any congestion or blockage in the perfectly tuned roadmap of veins and arteries can deprive heart, lungs, brains, extremities and other organs of the precious oxygen rich blood and cause a host of medical conditions. Moreover, inadequate blood flow slows down healing from any illness, injury or condition and even further complicates already existing medical history.
Poor circulation is very often a silent killer since its symptoms may be overlooked for years. Some may experience tingling in the lower extremities, numbness or pain from time to time, cold hands or feet and not realize that all these are symptoms of poor circulation that can have very serious complications if not addressed. In addition to unpleasant sensations in hands or feet, dangerous blood clots can develop, travel to the heart or lungs and block major veins and arteries causing serious health problems like heart attacks, strokes and even death. Veins and arteries affected by inflammation and blockages caused by cholesterol plaques or high blood sugar in diabetic patients cannot fully supply extremities with nutrients and oxygen necessary for their functioning. This may lead to pain in hands or feet, which can even turn blue or black signaling about a complete blockage of blood supply to the tissues. In severe cases, doctors have to resort to amputations due to gangrene complications.
Poor Circulation Causes
Poor circulation can be caused by a series of cardiological and neurological issues, systemic health conditions, obesity, poor lifestyle choices and diet preferences as well as bad habits like smoking or alcoholism. Since symptoms of poor circulation can be similar in two individual affected by different health problems, each and every patient must be carefully evaluated to pin point the underlying cause of stagnant blood flow. Sometimes several medical specialists should be consulted for thorough examination of presenting symptoms and health history. A cardiologist will assess levels of cholesterol in blood to figure out whether your circulatory problems are brought upon significant cholesterol clogged arteries. An endocrinologist can check both hormonal and blood sugar levels to determine if sluggish metabolism or diabetes might be to blame for your poor blood circulation. A phlebologist should be consulted in case of painful and inflamed veins on legs to rule out vein malformations and disorders interfering with normal blood circulation.
Medical professionals group diseases that are manifested by poor circulation within arteries and veins located outside of the heart and brain under one category, peripheral vascular disease. Synonymous with peripheral artery disease, it is caused by partial or complete obstruction of the blood vessels, inflammation and damage triggered by a myriad of poor circulation causes. Since body is one complex system of interconnected organs and tissues, stagnant blood has a tremendous impact on virtually the whole organism.
Cardiological causes of poor circulation mainly arise from atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries due to significant plaque deposits settling on the walls of blood vessels. If uncontrolled, atherosclerosis leads to strokes and heart attacks. Other less common conditions like Raynaud’s or Buerger’s diseases are responsible for spontaneous spasming and inflammation of blood vessels causing circulatory problems like blue toes or fingers. Age is another serious factor contributing to blood vessels losing their elasticity leading to varicose veins and other cases of peripheral vascular disease. Pregnant women are also at a high risk for poor circulation symptoms resulting from growing uterus compressing major veins and arteries in the body distributing oxygen and nutrients to all organs and tissues.
There are, however, some neurological issues responsible for poor circulation in hands and feet caused primarily by pinched or damaged nerves due to trauma, bacterial or viral diseases, chronic and autoimmune disorders. Very often peripheral neuropathy conditions are accompanied by many symptoms, including weakness in the limbs, loss of sensation, pain and burning, tingling and extreme sensitivity. Before initiating treatment doctors must carefully evaluate each patient to determine whether one or several nerves are affected and what other symptoms and predisposing conditions are present.
Here are some of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy:
- Diabetes tops the list due to damage to the blood vessels and nerves brought by poorly regulated blood sugar that makes them fragile and leads to inflammation. Most of the times foot circulation is affected resulting in severe pain, hard to heal sores and changes in the color of extremities. Diabetic neuropathy if left untreated can lead to very serious complications including the loss of limbs and death.
- Alcoholism and smoking are other very common causes of this condition due to damaging effect that these substances have on blood vessels.
- Lifestyle is a major contributing factor of neurological causes of circulatory problems as obesity, sedentary lifestyles and occupation have a tremendous effect on the health of nerve fibers. Excessive weight applies extra pressure and wear on the tissues leading to nerve damage over time. Traumatic injuries can severely damage nerves leading to chronic pain and even loss of limb functioning. Repetitive actions like typing or assembly line work can also cause conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome affecting the median nerve in the wrist. Similar to carpal tunnel, ulnar nerve neuritis results from nerve entrapment usually after trauma to the elbow or forearm region.
- Lyme disease, shingles, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases can affect normal nerve functioning.
- Autoimmune disorders like Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions can also have a debilitating effect on nerve trunks.
Some individuals are more likely to develop poor circulation than others. These risk factors include obesity, bad habits like smoking, lack of exercise and underlying systemic health conditions, predominantly diabetes. All people over the age of 50 or those who have peripheral artery disease family history are also at a high risk for poor leg circulation. In addition, frequent fliers are also in the high risk group for poor circulation complications since dehydration and being in immobile position for hours at a time increases risk of blood clots.
Poor Circulation Treatment Options
Depending on the causes of poor circulation, today doctors have a wide array of treatment options to address this condition. Statin drugs may be prescribed to unclog arteries affected by cholesterol plaque. In fact, cholesterol lowering statin drugs are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in America. Blood thinners are also prescribed to control excessive blood coagulation and prevent dangerous blood clots. Vasodilator medications affect the walls if the blood vessels keeping them open enabling healthy blood flow. Unfortunately, these medications carry serious side effects affecting digestion, allergic reactions and liver damage in some cases. For those cases that do not respond well to statin drugs, more aggressive treatment methods are in order, including angioplasty and stent procedures along with surgical removal of plaque deposits. All of these drastic surgical interventions also come with potential adverse reactions, painful recovery times, and do not address the actual causes of the condition merely managing the symptoms.
Alternative medicine that firmly believes that treating the symptoms without addressing the actual cause of the disease is not an option, offers its fair share of natural circulation remedies. Natural methods to increase circulation include anything from herbs for circulation, breathing techniques and exercises to reduce environmental damage to blood vessels, clear cholesterol plaque and inflammation. Some holistic health practitioners suggest employing ancient Chinese remedies such as acupuncture and acupressure to promote healthy lymph and blood flow by affecting precise points throughout the body. Therapeutic massage is also incredibly beneficial in enhancing healing blood flow. Regular exercise, however, comes above all remedies on improving blood circulation and should be incorporated into any daily regimen for optimal health.
Though natural poor circulation treatment methods are considered much more effective in some cases without harsh side effects of medicated approaches, these should not be attempted without prior doctor consultation. For example, patients taking blood thinning medications combined with natural supplements like garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper are at risk for dangerous bleeding complications. Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor prior to initiating any alternative poor circulation therapy.
Poor circulation is not a minor health condition and should not be taken lightly. Even if you experience any of the symptoms described in the article from time to time, it is imperative you get checked up by a physician who might give a referral to a cardiologist, neurologist or endocrinologist for further evaluation. Serious health consequences like heart attack, stroke, amputations of limbs, slow recovery from illnesses and trauma are just some of the results of uncontrolled poor circulation. Anyone over the age of 50 or those affected by major systemic illnesses like heart disease or diabetes should be regularly screened for signs of circulatory problems.
To learn more poor circulation facts and in depth details on symptoms, causes, risk factors, conventional treatment options and natural remedies of the condition, please refer to other articles presented on the website.