Your feet and legs are at the furthest reaches of your circulatory system, which has the vital job of carrying oxygen, disease-fighting white blood cells and other essentials to every part of your body, plus removing waste products. It primarily consists of the heart and blood vessels and can be likened to a complex network of motorways and smaller roads. As health resource WebMD says, there are about 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body!
The importance of good circulation can’t be overstated. When blood flows easily, your body thrives. It can maintain a normal temperature, work properly, overcome illness and injury, and cope with physical activity. Your circulatory system supports crucial bodily functions and contributes to your wellbeing.
Poor Circulation is Most Common in Your Extremities
Because your feet and legs are further away from your heart than the other parts of your body, they’re the most difficult areas to pump blood to and from. That’s why they’re particularly prone to poor circulation. If blood flows too slowly or struggles to reach certain parts, there can be wide-ranging, serious health implications.
Poor circulation in your feet and legs means those areas are unlikely to receive enough oxygen or nourishment, while waste products won’t be removed effectively. Wounds, infections and injuries will take longer to heal. Your feet and legs may be unable to maintain a normal temperature. Staying active could become challenging.
Signs of Restricted Blood Flow in Feet and Legs
There are many symptoms associated with poor circulation in people’s feet and legs.
- Persistent coldness
- Strange sensations – tingling, throbbing, stinging
- Red, blue or purple toes
- Dry skin and cracked heels
- Wounds healing slowly or becoming ulcers
- Slow-growing, brittle toenails
- Hair loss on legs
- Muscle cramps, stiffness or weakness
- Pain or aching
If left untreated, poor circulation can have serious complications, including nerve damage, tissue damage and Deep Vein Thrombosis. DVT is a life-threatening condition that typically occurs in the legs and requires urgent medical help.
Risk Factors for Poor Circulation
Diabetes is associated with high glucose levels, which can damage blood vessels. People with diabetes are therefore particularly vulnerable to developing poor circulation. This is one of the main reasons we encourage them to attend regular diabetic foot assessments.
Another risk factor for reduced blood supply is smoking – nicotine constricts blood vessels and thickens blood. The term ‘smoker’s leg’ is sometimes used to describe circulation problems.
An unhealthy diet spells trouble, as fatty deposits can clog up blood vessels. Being overweight or obese puts excess pressure on feet and legs, while the circulatory system tends to work less effectively as people age.
Varicose veins result from weak valves and are associated with excess weight and getting older. Blood pools in those veins, hindering its progress back to the heart.
High blood pressure hardens blood vessels. Dehydration and sedentary lifestyles slow circulation down.
Usually Indicates an Underlying Health Problem
As poor circulation is usually caused by an underlying health condition you may not already know you have, it should always be investigated. If you’re worried about your feet or legs, don’t hesitate to book a chiropody appointment; visiting your GP is a good idea too.
For many people with poor circulation, the underlying cause is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries (which carry oxygen-rich blood), which restricts the blood supply to legs and feet.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
During your initial chiropody appointment, we’ll perform a vascular assessment. This includes a Doppler test to check for problems with your foot or leg circulation. Painless and non-invasive, the test is a form of ultrasound scan. It measures blood flow and helps us to detect constricted, damaged or blocked blood vessels.
If you’re diagnosed with poor circulation, your chiropodist will provide a treatment plan that takes into account the underlying cause and is tailored to your needs. The plan might include pain-relieving medication, circulation-boosting exercises or compression socks (which use gentle pressure to improve blood flow and reduce swelling), for example.
In addition to having treatment for poor circulation, making lifestyle changes can be beneficial – your chiropodist and GP can advise you. Potentially helpful suggestions include elevating your feet with a pillow in bed, avoiding narrow shoes, having foot massages or warm baths, losing weight and giving up smoking.
Tackle Poor Circulation with Our London Chiropodists
You can rely on Feet By Pody to diagnose and treat blood supply problems in your feet and legs at our hygienic London chiropody clinics.
Worried about poor foot or leg circulation? Contact us for prompt assistance.