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Causes of Poor Circulation Problems

By Linda Ray ; Updated August 14, 2017

Poor circulation can result from a number of conditions, from neurological difficulties to obesity. Blocked arteries and pinched nerves also can cause poor circulation problems. Symptoms of poor circulation typically start as tingling or numbness in the extremities, like the feet and hands. According to doctors at ePodiatry, cramping and changes in the color and temperature of the skin also can indicate poor circulation problems.


Arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a major cause of poor circulation problems. The walls of the arteries become thick and hard and cannot move the blood from the heart to the feet and hands. Arteriosclerosis is often a side effect of diabetes and is exacerbated by smoking, excess weight and lack of physical exercise. High blood pressure and high cholesterol also can cause arterial difficulties.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are enlarged veins that clog the flow of blood and cause circulation problems, in addition to the unsightly purple bulges typically found on the back of the legs. Varicose veins have become enlarged because of a buildup of blood, and blood flow becomes impeded. Varicose veins are mostly genetic and can become painful and sensitive to the touch, in addition to impairing circulation in the legs.


Thrombophlebitis is a common condition that causes poor circulation, reports Doctors Senior Exercise. The disease typically strikes acutely and causes a warm tenderness in the legs as they turn a bluish color. Fluid builds in the buttocks, groin and thighs and causes severe pain. With treatment, phlebitis symptoms can be reduced within a week or two, when chronic discomfort sets in. Patients are relieved of the poor circulation problems only when their legs are elevated.

Niacin Deficiency

Niacin deficiency can cause poor circulation, among other conditions. The Mayo Clinic reports that healthy niacin levels usually are maintained through a balanced diet. The body needs niacin in small amounts for many bodily functions, including tissue metabolism. Niacin supplements have not been proven to be effective in treating niacin deficiency, although injections can be useful when provided under a doctor's supervision, according to the Mayo Clinic. Daily niacin requirements can be met by eating meat, eggs and dairy products.

Other Causes

Other conditions that can affect circulation include liver and kidney disease, lung disease and environmental factors. Exposure to extreme cold can slow down circulation. Chemical irritants, including tobacco smoke, impair the circulatory system. Alcohol and caffeine consumption also can restrict blood flow and cause circulation problems.

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