Plaque buildup, blood clots or narrowed blood vessels can lead to poor circulation. When obstacles or narrow paths slow down blood flow, it’s difficult for your body to send blood to every part of your body in an efficient way. Exercise and healthy food can help.
Poor circulation happens when something interferes with your complex, far-reaching circulatory system that delivers blood, oxygen and nutrients to your entire body. When your heart, veins, arteries, capillaries and other blood vessels are healthy, they can give your cells everything they need in an efficient way. It’s a continuous cycle of bringing oxygen and other necessities to your cells and taking away waste from your cells.
Problems happen when something goes wrong with some part of the delivery system or the valves that control which direction your blood goes. Like a delivery driver who runs into problems and delays along his route, blood can hit detours and roadblocks along the way.
Obstacles in your blood vessels make it hard for blood to get through, especially when trying to reach the parts of your body that are the longest distance away from your heart ― your fingers and toes. The biggest problem with poor circulation is that your cells aren’t getting as much oxygen as they need. When cells don’t have the oxygen they need, they can’t function well.
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People who are older than age 40, are overweight, have diabetes and don’t get much exercise are more likely to have poor circulation.
You may feel pain, numbness, tingling or cold in the parts of your body that have bad circulation. Often, poor circulation symptoms affect your legs, hands, fingers, feet and toes.
Poor circulation can cause a number of symptoms, including:
Conditions that reduce your blood flow can give you bad circulation, such as:
Your provider will want:
Your provider may order tests that include:
Your provider may order medicine for you or do surgery to:
Medicines your provider may order include:
Any surgery has a risk of bleeding. Medicines that keep your body from creating large blood clots also have a risk of bleeding. Your provider will work with you to get your dosage right so you don’t bleed excessively when you get hurt.
You can improve your poor circulation symptoms in these ways:
If you don’t do something about your bad circulation, it won’t get better on its own. In fact, it can get worse. But you can manage and improve your poor circulation with lifestyle changes, medication and surgery, if necessary.
You can take care of your poor circulation in several ways:
Contact your provider when you have new symptoms, deep vein thrombosis or when your medicines aren’t helping your symptoms.
You should get help immediately when:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A number of common medical problems can cause poor circulation, but there are things you can do to improve it. You can eat healthier and increase your exercise level, for example. If those actions aren’t enough to improve your circulation, your provider can order medicine for you or do surgery if other treatments don’t work.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/27/2021.
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