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Warning Signs of Poor Circulation

By Lara Alspaugh ; Updated August 14, 2017

Poor circulation can be caused by many conditions. Arteriosclerosis and peripheral artery disease (PAD) are among them. While the symptoms of arteriosclerosis and PAD may be similar, some distinguishing factors distinguish them from one another. Any symptoms of poor circulation should be attended to by a health care provider as soon as possible.

Swelling of Hands and Feet

Many people with poor circulation will begin to experience swelling in the hands and feet. This occurs as the body's heart and circulatory system begins to work less effectively and it becomes difficult to continue to pump blood up and out of the dependent areas, such as the hands and feet. The circulatory system then leaves some fluid behind in an effort to lighten the load; this fluid accumulates and becomes what is known as edema, or swelling. Edema can be identified if an indentation remains in a swollen area after it has been pressed for 5 seconds. Consulting with a health care provider will help to determine edema is truly present and if it is being caused by poor circulation.

Arterial Leg Ulcers

An ulcer is a wound or sore that will not heal and continues to return. Arterial leg ulcers, according to the Cleveland Clinic, appear on the feet, near the heels, tips of the toes, between the toes or where bony prominences are rubbed and agitated by socks or sheets. The base of an arterial ulcer does not bleed but instead may appear yellow, brown, grey or black. These ulcers are very painful, particularly at night and are caused by poor circulation--often by arteriosclerosis.

Additional Symptoms Associated with Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is a common cause of poor circulation. The lists the following as signs of peripheral artery disease: cramping in the high, thigh or calf after activity, numbness and/or weakness in the legs, change of the color of the skin on the legs, shiny skin on the legs, decreased strength of pulses found in the legs and feet and the possibility of erectile dysfunction in men.

Additional Symptoms Associated with Arteriosclerosis

Arteriosclerosis is a condition wherein the normally healthy, elastic and flexible artery walls begin to wear with time, becoming stiff and thick. This hardening can cause a decrease in circulation in the affected arteries. Depending on the arteries that have been afflicted, the symptoms will vary. The Mayo Clinic reports that a patient with hardening of the coronary arteries may experience angina, which often accompanies a heart attack.

Slurred speech, memory loss and droopy facial features as well as numbness and tingling of the arms and legs may indicate arteriosclerosis, poor circulation to the brain. If the arteriosclerosis in present in the arteries of the legs, symptoms similar to peripheral artery disease may be present.

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