When the circulatory system functions properly, blood flows freely, transporting needed oxygen and nutrients to tissues and organs. Unfortunately, certain conditions may cause poor circulation, resulting in symptoms that range from tingling sensations in the extremities to painful varicose veins.
Issues Associated with Poor Circulation
There are a number of symptoms that can suggest poor circulation.Those include having cold hands, feet, fingers, and toes even in warm environments, or often experiencing pain, swelling, and muscle cramps. These can be frustrating symptoms on their own, but may also hint at underlying medical issues.
One of those associated conditions is atherosclerosis, a build-up of plaque in the arteries and blood vessels that restricts blood flow. Atherosclerosis typically occurs in the arteries supplying blood to the heart and brain. When it affects the legs, it’s called peripheral artery disease.
Diabetes also impairs circulation, as too much glucose in the bloodstream leads to an excess of plaque in the arteries. Lifestyle factors contribute to poor circulation as well. Smoking and a high-fat diet damage blood vessels and impede blood flow.
Poor Circulation & Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are a potential manifestation of circulatory problems. Those knotted, distended veins emerging along the legs and feet indicate a serious venous disorder within the circulatory network.
Varicose veins occur due to a disruption in the movement of blood between the extremities and the heart. Within each leg vein are valves that counteract the gravity forcing blood downward by pumping blood back to the heart. However, these valves sometimes fail to push blood upward due to several factors, such as sitting or standing for long periods, heredity, obesity, and pregnancy.
When the valves malfunction, blood pools in the vein. The vein walls cannot contain this extra blood, and the vein extends outward from under the skin, appearing as a patchwork of bulging blue and purple lines. Varicose vein sufferers then experience the symptoms of the condition — aches, swelling, itchiness, and a “heavy” feeling in the leg. Varicose veins, therefore, are another red flag signaling a faulty circulatory system.
In addition, varicose veins are often prone to spontaneous bleeding from even slight cuts and scrapes. When the circulatory system functions normally, the wound heals quickly. On the other hand, poor circulation hampers this healing process. As a result, slow-healing ulcers may form around the varicose vein.
How to Boost Circulation
Since the symptoms of poor circulation may or may not suggest an underlying cause, a doctor will perform a series of tests to pinpoint the exact medical reason. For example, a blood test can uncover diabetes, while an ultrasound or CT scan may show a blood clot. The doctor may perform an ankle-brachial index test that measures blood pressure in the arms and ankles, in order to check for peripheral artery disease.
Once a cause is determined, a doctor may prescribe a blood thinner or a prescription drug for diabetes. However, many individuals can improve their circulation by being more active, quitting smoking, and eating a healthy diet. Foods rich in omega-3, such as salmon, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and walnuts, can help boost circulation. These measures may help improve circulation, and in some cases, you may be able to avoid developing additional varicose veins. But boosting circulation alone will not heal existing varicose veins.
Varicose Vein Treatments
While it’s always a good idea to take steps to improve your circulation, your varicose veins will only be cured with surgical therapy. You can learn more about these procedures from the specialists at Vein & Vascular Institute. We offer several minimally invasive procedures that can permanently rid your legs of varicose veins and restore the smooth appearance of your legs. Contact us today for an appointment.