Are your feet experiencing a pins-and-needles sensation, numbness, or muscle cramps? If so, you could be dealing with poor circulation, which should not be ignored.
The tissues in your feet must have proper blood flow to receive the oxygen and nutrients needed to stay healthy. When this doesn’t happen, this could lead to pain and be the sign of an unhealthy lifestyle or underlying health condition.
While it’s one thing to have feet feel a little colder in winter or weak after standing for long periods of time, it’s another to have lingering or recurring symptoms. The most common signs of poor foot circulation include:
- A slow-healing wound
- Cold feet
- Discoloration; feet may turn red, blue, purple, or white
- Dry or cracked skin
- Engorged veins
- Hair loss on the legs and feet
- Muscle cramps
- Slower toenail growth
- Tingling; a pins-and-needles sensation
- Weak toenails
As people age, arteries become thick and stiff and blood cannot easily travel. This is known as arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
Plaque, a sticky substance of calcium, cholesterol, fat, waste products from cells, and a blood clogging agent called fibrin, is the culprit. This plaque buildup is a natural part of aging, but high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, and smoking can make this condition worse.
Atherosclerosis is a continuation of arteriosclerosis. Plaque buildup continues over time, making the passageway more narrow. This can lead to peripheral artery disease, a condition where the arteries in the legs narrow, causing reduced blood flow and possible damage to the nerves and other tissues.
One-way valves in the veins carry blood to the heart, and blood can collect in the veins when valves are weakened or damaged. These varicose veins appear enlarged and twisted, red or blue, and near the surface of the skin, most commonly on the back of the legs. Long periods of standing or sitting can cause blood to collect in the veins of your legs, increasing the pressure inside your veins.
People with diabetes risk having their blood vessels damaged when blood glucose levels remain high for an extended period of time. If left untreated, people could develop reduced circulation in the feet and foot ulcers that do not heal.
When someone is emotionally stressed or feels cold, blood vessels in the fingers or toes narrow. This condition, known as Raynaud’s Disease, has a series of steps:
- Due to a lack of blood flow, the affected skin first turns pale or white.
- As the blood loses oxygen, the skin feels cold and numb and turns blue.
- As you warm up and circulation returns, the skin turns red and may burn, tingle, throb, or swell.
These days, more people tend to live a fairly sedentary lifestyle. Driving to and from work and sitting behind a desk for long stretches of time can negatively impact blood circulation. Yet, there are easy ways to increase blood circulation in your feet.
- Be more active. Take on gentle aerobic exercises, like marching in place or swimming, to get your blood pumping.
- Have an at-home spa day with a warm foot bath. Taking off dry skin with a brush or pumice stone will increase circulation, as will massaging in some foot cream.
- Wear compression socks. By applying pressure to the legs and feet, blood is forced back to the heart.
- Lose weight if you’re obese or quit smoking. If applicable, this will greatly benefit your heart health and blood flow.
- Eat foods that improve circulation. There are several to choose from, including cayenne pepper, cinnamon, garlic, fatty fish, leafy greens, tomatoes, berries, and ginger.
Don’t let your foot be in pain! If you suspect you have poor circulation, be sure to visit The Foot & Ankle Center! Our knowledgeable podiatrists will be able to pinpoint what’s ailing you and set you up on a path toward managing or curing it. To get started, call 314-487-9300 or request an appointment today!