16 Warning Signs of Poor Blood Circulation and How to Treat It

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14 Warning Signs That You Have Poor Blood Circulation

If you frequently have cold feet and hands with a tingling feeling in them, it could be that you are showing signs of poor blood circulation. If blood flow in your body is reduced for some reason, you may also suffer other health complications. For example, it is known that poor blood circulation can cause dizziness, fatigue, hair loss, and even result in digestive upset.

Suffering from poor blood flow in your body is usually a symptom of another underlying health issue. If you have diabetes, are overweight, have high blood pressure, or smoke, you are at greater risk of the complications of poor circulation. This is because these conditions cause your arteries to narrow which restricts blood flow.


In this article, you will learn to identify the various signs of poor blood circulation and what causes bad circulation in your body. First of all, let’s look at what exactly low blood circulation is and its dangers.

The Dangers of Poor Circulation

Your heart is located under your rib cage and is responsible for pumping nutrient oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. According to Dr. James Beckerman on WebMD, around 5 or 6 quarts (around 5 liters) of blood flows through your vascular system. Because blood feeds your body’s tissues and vital organs, any reduction in blood circulation means that bodily functions will be impaired.1

Therefore, good circulation of blood around the body is essential to being healthy and fit.

What is Poor Blood Circulation?

Poor blood circulation means that parts of the body, especially your hands and feet, receive insufficient amount of blood. Once blood reaches your legs and feet, your heart has to pump hard to push the blood “uphill” back to the heart and lungs.

Plaque buildup in your arteries and other factors can slow down blood flow and make it more difficult for your legs, arms, heart, and other important areas of the body to get enough blood. Smoking, pregnancy, eating disorders, and weight gain can all restrict the amount of blood that flows through your veins.

Although poor circulation affects many elderly people, it can cause complications in people of all ages. It is important to always look for ways to improve blood circulation to prevent serious damage to your brain, heart, liver, and limbs.

Signs of Poor Blood Circulation

The signs of poor blood circulation may not be instantly obvious, but the results can be serious. If the body’s tissues and vital organs don’t receive an adequate supply of blood, you could end up with blood clots, swelling, a weakened immune system, and even memory loss.

Here are the many different symptoms of poor blood circulation. Depending on the severity of the weakened circulatory process, you may have one or more of these symptoms.

Numbness and tingling in limbs

One of the most common symptoms of having restricted blood flow is numbness and/or tingling in your hands and feet.

The website Diabetes.co.uk says that poor circulation causes cold feet or hands along with numbness.2 Dr. Rob Hicks on WebMD says that if enough blood doesn’t reach your limbs, you may also get pins and needles.3


Impaired cognitive function

Poor blood flow can also affect your brain’s function causing memory loss, difficulty concentrating and being less focused. Your brain needs a constant flow of blood to keep it functioning properly.

According to the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, reduction in cerebral blood flow, a drop in the amount of blood being pumped around the body, and blood pressure changes are the main factors in cognitive deficit.4

Digestive issues

It may surprise you to find out that bad blood circulation can actually cause digestive issues. Like all other bodily functions, your digestive system also needs a good supply of blood to make it function properly.

The Cleveland Clinic reports that a buildup of fatty matter on the blood vessel walls restricts blood flow in the abdominal region. Poor circulation can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, or bloody stools. This can become so serious that it can turn into a life-threatening condition.5

Loss of Appetite

Another sign of circulatory system problems is loss of appetite.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a certain type of rare disease that results in inflammation of the blood vessels can cause a lack of appetite. Your gastrointestinal tract needs blood in order to digest food so poor circulation can cause a lack of appetite.23


Your muscles also need enough blood to keep them functioning properly and prevent muscle fatigue. Slower blood flow around your body affects your energy levels and makes you feel tired quicker as your heart pumps harder to keep blood circulating.

Dr. Yu Shang on Medscape.com reports that a reduction in oxygen-rich blood can cause muscle fatigue. For example, people who experience chronic fatigue and have difficulty exercising may find that poor circulation can increase the recovery time after exercise.6


Depending on the reason of poor circulation, you may also have pain in your legs or hands.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, if your hands or feet have been very cold, they may start to throb with pain as you warm them up and blood flows back.7

People with poor circulation in their legs may find that they frequently have an achy feeling in their calf muscles and feet. Pain in the legs usually becomes worse after sitting or standing for a long time.8

Muscle cramps

As well as causing pain, bad blood circulation can also cause muscle cramps. There are a number of factors connected with the blood circulation that can stiffen muscles and cause cramping.

Dr. William Shiel on eMedicineHealth.com says that poor circulation can lead to muscle cramping in the legs. However, if you don’t have enough blood going round your veins that has enough calcium, magnesium, potassium, and other nutrients, any muscle in the body can experience cramping.9

Discolored skin

You may notice that you have pale or even blue skin if not enough blood gets to your tissues. It’s not just your feet or hands that can turn a different color. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that poor circulation can affect the color of your nose, lips, ears, and even nipples.7

Impaired circulation can also cause mottled skin (livedo reticularis). Mottled skin is a term to describe skin that appears to have lacy patches of purple discoloration on it.


Leg ulcers

Circulatory problems can also hinder the body’s healing process and cause venous leg ulcers to form.

According to Dr. Tim Kenny on Patient.info, ulcers on the legs can appear because the blood can’t effectively flow back up the body. As the blood collects in the leg, it causes swelling, thickening, and damage to the skin.10  


Swelling is a common symptom of poor blood circulation. For example, swelling is common in the legs of people who suffer from circulation problems because of poor blood flow from your legs back to your heart (this is called edema). Or swelling could be a sign of heart disease where the heart can’t circulate enough blood around the body.

PubMed Health explains that the swelling happens because blood builds up around the feet and ankles and forces fluid from the blood vessels into the surrounding tissue. Heart-related circulation problems may also cause abdominal swelling.11  

Hair loss and weak nails

A lack of blood flow to your scalp and other areas of skin where hair grows can lead to hair loss. The same is true of your nails – poor blood flow to your hands and feet can cause problems with your nails.

For example, the journal ePlasty reported that scalp massage can increase blood flow to the head and can help to improve hair thickness.12 Also, a study was published in the journal Canadian Family Physician finding that impaired circulation to the hands and feet causes brittle nails.13  

Your fingernails can actually tell you a lot about your health, and there are 11 health warnings your fingernails may be sending.


A narrowing of your arteries causes poor circulation which can lead to angina. Angina is a serious heart condition that can cause left side chest pains and breathlessness when not enough oxygen-rich blood gets to your heart.

The journal Circulation stated that unstable angina is a symptom of “coronary circulation insufficiency.”14

Varicose veins

Poor circulation can cause varicose veins under the surface of the skin in your legs to twist and become very visible. This is very common in workers who have to stand for long periods of time. You may also notice small veins visible through the skin that resemble spider webs.

You might notice pain after long periods of sitting or random itchiness during the day. Varicose veins most commonly appear near the feet and ankles and they can become itchy and painful. If you suffer from varicose veins, there are 14 tips to improve varicose veins naturally.

PubMed Health explains that poor blood flow to the legs results in a condition called chronic venous insufficiency. This can also cause the legs to feel heavy, aching, itchy, and swell. The poor circulation in your legs can also cause unsightly knotted veins to appear.15  

Weakened immune system

Your body’s ability to detect and fight off pathogens and remain healthy will also be affected by a poor blood circulation.

The connection between the circulatory system and the immune system lies in the fact that various specialized cells that compose the immune system travel in the blood through the entire body inside the circulatory system. So the circulatory system and the immune system are clearly connected.


When you have poor circulation, immune system cells that are needed to fight off infection may not be delivered as quickly or in great enough quantities as they would be via a healthy circulatory system. You may pick up illnesses more easily and you also might find that wounds and injuries take much longer to heal. But there are ways to boost your immune system naturally.

Cold hands and feet

Slow or poor blood flow will cause your hands and feet feel much colder than the rest of your body.

When your blood is flowing at optimal speed it helps to keep your body’s temperature at a healthy and comfortable level. If your circulation is poor, the process of regulating temperature is interfered with. This causes chilly feelings, usually in areas with a lot of nerve endings like the hands and feet.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, poor blood flow caused by peripheral artery disease can cause cold hands and feet.16

Erectile dysfunction

Blood flow is also needed to get and maintain an erection. According to the website Diabetes.co.uk, erectile dysfunction is one of the signs of poor circulation.2

Causes of Poor Blood Flow

Knowing the cause of poor blood circulation can help you to treat the underlying medical condition. Sometimes, all that is necessary is to stimulate blood circulation to get your blood flowing better.

Being overweight

To prevent poor blood circulation and keep a healthy vascular system, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. Carrying around extra pounds puts more pressure on your heart and reduces blood flow throughout your body.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, even losing as little as 10 pounds of extra weight can help to improve blood flow, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Being overweight can also restrict blood flow to the brain and put you at risk of a stroke.18


Poor circulation can be caused by diabetes. Diabetes can cause peripheral artery disease which can affect blood flow to vital organs of the body. If you have diabetes, you should also take great care of your feet. This is because poor blood circulation in the legs can lead to a higher chance of developing serious foot problems.

The website Diabetes.co.uk says that prolonged high levels of blood glucose can damage blood vessels and cause a buildup of plaque. It is recommended to maintain proper blood pressure and low cholesterol levels to keep your blood circulation healthy.2

Nerve damage

Damage to nerves that control your cardiovascular system can result in bad blood flow to your organs and other parts of your body.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that nerve damage can affect blood pressure and also affect your heart. This could result in dizziness, fainting, or lightheadedness and other warning signs of poor circulation.21


Smoking increases your risk of developing various vascular diseases, including suffering from the symptoms of poor circulation.


The reason that smoking causes bad circulation and interferes with blood flow is that it causes plaque to build up in your veins. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says that plaque in your blood vessels limits the flow of blood throughout your body. This increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.20  

Thyroid disease

Thyroid disease can also affect blood circulation and cause reduced blood flow, especially to the brain.

The journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders reported that variations in thyroid function negatively affect cerebral blood flow (blood supply to the brain).22  

Poor circulation is just one of the signs of a thyroid disorder. If you think that numbness or tingling in your limbs is caused by a thyroid problem, please read my article on the warning signs of a thyroid disease.

Peripheral artery disease

Peripheral artery disease describes the condition where a buildup of plaque in the veins narrows the arteries and restricts circulation. This can affect not only the blood flow to your legs, but also your brain, scalp, and heart.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, poor blood flow caused by peripheral artery disease can cause leg numbness, cold hands and feet, hair loss, a weak pulse in your legs, and muscle cramping.16

Raynaud’s disease

Raynaud’s disease affects your blood vessels and causes spasms. The result is a reduction in blood flow to your hands and feet which may cause numbness and tingling in your arm and feet.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic says that the cause of Raynaud’s disease isn’t completely understood. However, they say that cold temperatures or stress causes the arteries in your hands or feet to become very narrow and limit the blood supply. Over time, the blood vessels may thicken, restricting blood flow even more.17

Blood clots

If a blood clot forms in your blood vessels, it can restrict or completely cut off blood flow to certain organs and arteries. Dr. Benjamin Wedra on eMedicineHealth says that blood clots can form after surgery, being immobile for a length of time, or be caused by a buildup of plaque. It’s common for pregnant women to develop blood clots.19  

Blood clots can become a serious medical condition if they move. Blood clots can cause pain and lead to heart attack if they flow to the heart or cause pulmonary embolism if they enter the lung. Pulmonary embolism is also one of the causes of chest pain.

How to Treat Poor Circulation

If you have signs of an insufficient circulatory system, then there are many practical ways to boost your blood circulation naturally.

Here are some of the best ways to get rid of the symptoms of poor blood circulation:

Read this related article: How to Improve Blood Circulation Naturally (Research Based)
Article Sources

  1. WebMD. Anatomy and circulation of the heart.
  2. Diabetes. Poor circulation.
  3. WebMD. Foot care health centre.
  4. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2014 Dec; 11(4): 316–328.
  5. ClevelandClinic. Intestinal ischemic syndrome.
  6. Medscape. Noninvasive Optical Characterization of Muscle Blood Flow.
  7. MayoClinic. Raynaud’s disease.
  8. MayoClinic. Varicose veins.
  9. eMedicineHealth. What causes muscle cramps?
  10. PatientInfo. Venous leg ulcers.
  11. NCBI. Causes and signs of edema.
  12. Eplasty. 2016; 16: e8.
  13. Can Fam Physician. 2011 Feb; 57(2): 173–181.
  14. Circulation. 2013;127:2452-2457
  15. NCBI. Prevention of poor blood flow in the veins.
  16. MayoClinic. Peripheral artery disease.
  17. MayoClinic. Raynaud’s disease.
  18. NIDDK. Health risks of being overweight.
  19. eMedicineHealth. Blood clots.
  20. NHLBI. How does smoking affect the heart the blood vessels?
  21. NIDDK. Nerve damage.
  22. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2011 Apr-Jun;25(2):138-43.
  23. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Types of Vasculitis.
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60 Responses to 16 Warning Signs of Poor Blood Circulation and How to Treat It

  1. Bonnie says:

    Another cause of poor circulation is a congenital heart defect like a bicuspid aortic valve. I never realized i had this until I was in my 70s. I gradually started feeling weak, but thought I was just getting old. I developed breast cancer in spite of an excellent diet and lifestyle. In the followup to cancer surgery the heart defect was discovered.I had the defective valve replaced by a pig valve. I think I got cancer because my immune system wasn’t getting enough blood. This is a fairly common mutation. Don’t assume your weakness is just old age.

  2. timothy says:

    I constantly work in electrical currents and fields.My hands are constantly numb when I awake from sleep.My leg is swollen and I constantly have chest pains..Does this means electrical cause poor circulation

    • Jenny Hills, Medical Writer and Researcher says:

      I don’y know. I couldn’t find information about it. I think it’s best to see a doctor, especially when you have constant chest pain and swelling in one leg. These should not be ignored.

  3. Lilith says:

    I am 24, a little underweight (can’t seem to gain, I eat enough, don’t over-exercise) but I am stubborn when it comes to clothes and wearing them when it’s cold.
    I do cover myself up, but I like to wear my favorite clothes, even in winter, so usually I just wear the same sumer-clothes in winter.
    And I’ll be cold for a short period of time but after this, the feeling of ‘cold’ will leave and it’ll become numb. (not really numb, but numb for cold, the skin turns purple/blue but I still ‘feel’ everything)

    And therefore, I don’t notice what’s happening untill I start to speak incoherent and stuttering, because my jaw hurts when I speak and people will say; Are you allright? Your lips are blue! Get inside!’ and that’s where I regain my ability to speak normally and my jaw will be fine again.

    And I knów that the only way to fix this is to just dress myself apropriately for wintertimes, but sometimes I just forget or I can’t ‘feel’ the cold in the first place and think; Well, I can wear that thin T-shirt anyway’

    How dangerous is this, apart from just being cold? Usually other people warn me whenever I turn blue and inside of the house I usually turn the heat up or wear warm clothes, it’s just outside where I put too much effort in looking good and too little in staying warm.

  4. pretty says:

    Please I have having pain under my feet when I wake up bed and getting up from sitting my feet hurt so bad that I have to move slowly before I can move, I always feel sleepy when I am sitting down to rest especially at work and in the bus, the heal of left hurts so much if I am walking and standing so please what type of test can I run to know what is really wrong with me.

    • Jenny says:

      You may have Plantar Fasciitis (Jogger’s Heel) – read my article about it here. However you may have another condition, and since I’m not a doctor, it’s best to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

  5. Suzy says:

    I have swollen feet and very painful right leg….this does apply to me I must have bad circulation. ALways learning,thanks for sharing.

    • sue says:

      Pain in a leg could be a blood clot. Get to the doctor ASAP!

    • CT says:

      I also have poor circulation in my lower legs. Above my ankles to almost half way to my knee my skin is a bright red and it never goes away. I also have vericose veins around my foot at the ankles all the way around. The skin is tender where it is red almost feels like a very bad bruise. I also get ulcers in that area on both legs. Go to your Dr. For diagnosis because it could be poor circulation or a few other things.

      • Tekin Bora says:

        I got similar problems my both ankles and legs I was diagnosed Graves’ disease 2008 but I got this problem since I was 20 years old I showed so many different doctors and they’re all ignored the problem! Doctor diagnosed me atrophie Blanche but they didn’t do any treatment….I’m a male thyroid patients…..I believe this skin problem was connected thyroid problems but doctor ignored the problem poor circulation thyroid symptoms….

  6. Bruna says:

    I’m only 15 and since last year my legs are blotchy and purple, I have lost weight by exercise and eating healthy ( I was over weight) I have never eaten so healthy before and I exercise on daily basis,but since I started this my legs have this problem. I have checked a doctor and all I’m told is that is bad circulation.but how?? I have never had problems and know that I improve my health this appears!
    Any suggestions? I don’t wear shorts anymore because it has made me very self conscious.. it’s all up to my thigh but worse on the lower legs. Thank you!

  7. Tonya says:

    I have all the symptoms so how should I start to resolve this medical issues especially since I don’t have medical insurance .

  8. Joanne says:

    I’ve suffered for a while now with circulation problems my knees will turn a purple blue color along with my feet I have very little feeling when it does this and also my right foot swells up also suffering with the cold hands aswel and discoloring a distinctive dark blue/purple shall I contact my GP for immediate attention???

    • Jenny says:

      Yes, you definitely need to see your doctor. Swollen ankles and feet are common and usually not cause for concern, particularly if you have been standing or walking a lot. But feet and ankles that stay swollen or are accompanied by other symptoms could signal a serious health problem (for example sign of heart, liver or kidney problem, blood clot etc.). Every case of swelling needs to be considered in its context to make sure you’re not missing a potentially serious condition. As you lack the medical knowledge to distinguish between harmless swelling and a serious problem, you don’t want to take any risk. Go to see your doctor.

  9. Laura says:

    I am ALWAYS cold! My hands and feet are frequently cold like ice. This is also genetic.

  10. Pam says:

    I have Raynauds Syndrome (self diagnosed). How to I improve on that, please?!

  11. daniel floyd says:


    • Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer says:

      Hi Daniel, if the problem continues and you don’t know what causes it, don’t ignore it. It’s best to go to your doctor for a professional diagnosis and a treatment plan.

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