Causes of Poor Circulation in Feet & Hands

Poor circulation occurs when there is not enough blood supplied to an area to meet the needs of the cells. Poor circulation to the hands and feet causes symptoms such as the sensation of tingling or numbness, cramping and the feeling of coldness in the fingers and toes. The circulatory system functions to carry blood and transport water, oxygen and nutrients to the cells of the body. Conditions and diseases that inhibit blood flow cause poor circulation in the hands and feet.

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Peripheral Vascular Disease

Peripheral vascular disease, PVD, occurs when the arteries or veins in the body become blocked 2. The most common form of PVD is peripheral artery disease, which affects approximately 12 percent to 20 percent of the 65 years or older population, according to the American Heart Association 123. PAD occurs when the arteries, which are the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to supply the cells of the body, in the legs become blocked.

Arteries usually have smooth walls allowing blood to flow freely. Over time, a substance known as plaque, which consists of cholesterol, calcium and fibrous tissue, builds up in the arteries. As plaque continues to build, a condition known as atherosclerosis, blood flow is inhibited. The poor circulation that results from PAD and other PVD diseases causes leg or arm pain, wounds on the feet or hands that will not heal and a noticeable decrease in temperature of the lower leg and feet or hands.

Heart Disease

Heart disease represents a group of diseases that affects the heart and blood vessels 3. As the No. 1 cause of death among men and women in the United States, according to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic, heart disease remains one of the main causes of circulatory problems 3.

Arrhythmias, one form of heart disease, cause an irregular heartbeat, too fast or too slow 3. A heart that beats too fast works ineffectively as blood can be left in the heart resulting in less blood flowing through the blood vessels. A heart that beats too slowly is not able to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the cells. Both of these conditions can cause poor circulation.

A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart is blocked, resulting in damage to the heart muscle. A damaged heart pumps an inadequate supply of blood through the body resulting in poor circulation.

Raynaud's Syndrome

Raynaud’s syndrome occurs when the arteries leading to the fingers and toes react to outside stimuli, such as cold temperatures or stress, by constricting, also known as a vasospasm 4. The vessels narrow restricting the flow of blood to the fingers and toes resulting in sensations of coldness, burning pain, numbness and tingling. The fingers and toes often turn blue due to the poor circulation. Raynaud’s syndrome is the primary disease in approximately 80 percent of the cases, according to the Merck Manual 4. Other conditions, such as scleroderma, cause the remaining 20 percent, known as secondary Raynaud’s syndrome 4.