Are you experiencing pain, numbness, cramps, and tingling in your legs? You may be suffering from poor circulation. Although poor circulation isn’t itself a disease, it describes a condition in which areas of your body receive a reduced level of blood flow. Most often, your legs or arms are affected.
There are several potential causes of poor circulation in your legs, including heart conditions, diabetes, obesity, arterial issues, and Raynaud’s disease. Vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency, can also lead to poor circulation.
Below, we discuss poor circulation in legs symptoms, along with how to improve blood circulation in legs. If you have additional questions, we recommend consulting a vein specialist.
What Are the Symptoms of Poor Circulation in the Legs?
There are a range of potential symptoms associated with poor circulation in legs. Identifying and treating the underlying cause can help alleviate your pain and discomfort.
Poor circulation in legs symptoms include:
- Muscle cramps
- Stinging or throbbing pains in your legs
Additionally, health conditions contributing to your poor circulation may induce other unique signs, too. For example, pain, numbness, and tingling in your legs may be combined with erectile dysfunction if you’re suffering from peripheral artery disease (PAD). If you are suffering from vein disease, on the other hand, you may develop varicose veins and spider veins.
What Causes Poor Circulation in Legs?
Poor circulation in legs can arise because of a whole host of different reasons, which we’ll explore individually below.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) causes your arteries and blood vessels to narrow, which leads to circulatory issues, including poor circulation in legs and arms. It is usually the result of atherosclerosis, a condition that causes stiffness in the arteries as plaque builds up.
Both PAD and atherosclerosis can cause poor circulation in legs symptoms as blood flow is restricted to your arms and legs. Over time, this may lead to worsening tingling and numbness, tissue damage, or nerve damage.
When left untreated, plaque buildup and lack of blood flow in your carotid arteries can place you at risk for stroke. That’s because these arteries are responsible for feeding your brain with blood. Equally, if this plaque builds up in the arteries of your heart, the risk of you having a heart attack dramatically increases.
Even though PAD can occur in young people, it is most common in those aged 50 and over. If you smoke, it increases your risk of developing PAD significantly.
The flow of blood can be reduced or blocked completely by a blood clot. Depending on location, this may lead to poor circulation in legs or arms.
The development of blood clots can result from a variety of different factors, including inactivity, injury, and disease. In some cases, blood clots can be dangerous. For example, if you develop a blood clot and this moves from your leg through your veins to your lungs, a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism can occur.
However, if a blood clot is identified early on, successful treatments can be carried out to reduce these deadly side effects.
Varicose veins are caused by underlying vein disease, which occurs when vein valves become damaged and unable to efficiently carry blood through your body. This can impact circulation and lead to venous symptoms like leg swelling, cramping, itching, and fatigue.
If you have a family history of varicose veins, are a woman, or have obesity, you’re far more likely to have them yourself.
Even though diabetes directly relates to your blood sugar levels, it can also create bad circulation, which may lead to leg cramps alongside pains in your thighs, calves, or buttocks. You may find these cramps get worse when you’ve been physically active.
In advanced cases of diabetes, poor circulation can become harder to detect due to the reduced sensation that diabetic neuropathy causes in your arms and legs.
Your body is placed under extra stress when you carry additional weight around with you, which can lead to poor circulation in the legs. And when you’re overweight, if you stand or sit for extended periods of time, you may start to suffer from circulation issues.
Excess weight also increases your risk of developing one of the many causes of poor circulation in your legs, including problems with your blood vessels and varicose veins.
When poor circulation results in chronic cold feet or hands, you may have developed Raynaud’s disease. This causes narrowing of the smaller arteries in your feet and hands, which means they’re less efficient at pumping blood around your body. Therefore, this can cause some of the poor circulation symptoms we’ve mentioned above, which are often accentuated when you’re stressed or cold. As well as your toes and fingers, you may also notice these symptoms in your ears, nipples, nose, and lips. You’re more likely to suffer from this disease if you live in a cold climate or you’re a woman.
What is the difference between Raynaud’s disease and Raynaud’s syndrome? While symptoms are similar, Raynaud’s disease occurs on its own, whereas Raynaud’s syndrome develops due to another health condition. If you are wondering exactly what causes Raynaud’s syndrome, there are many possible explanations to be discussed with your doctor.
As for what helps Raynaud’s syndrome, it is important to treat the underlying cause, along with obtaining personalized recommendations on how to improve blood circulation in legs, feet, hands, and other areas of the body.
What Else Should I Know About Poor Circulation in Legs?
As poor circulation isn’t a condition in itself, the root cause of your symptoms will need to be diagnosed before treatment can be determined. First, your doctor will want to assess whether there are any related diseases or cases of poor circulation in your family.
After carrying out a physical examination, your doctor may ask for some other tests to be carried out. These include a blood sugar test (for diabetes), an antibodies blood test (which will detect things like Raynaud’s disease), a CT scan or ultrasound, a blood test that looks for blood clots (which is attributed to a high level of D dimer), and blood pressure tests.
We understand that this can all sound a little scary, but we want to assure you that treatment likely exists to resolve your poor circulation in legs symptoms. When you first begin to experience symptoms, we encourage you to consult your doctor right away. Early diagnosis usually leads to the best health outcomes.
If caught early, a lot of the diseases that may result in poor circulation can be treated. Vein disease treatment, for instance, can boost circulation, alleviate painful venous symptoms, and reduce your risk of developing dangerous blood clots and venous ulcers (open, non-healing wounds).
How to Improve Blood Circulation in the Legs
What helps circulation in the legs? After speaking to your doctor about what may be causing your poor circulation, there are a number of things you can do to manage and improve the symptoms. These include:
- Wear compression stockings to help improve the blood flow in your legs: They should also help ease any swelling and pain you’re experiencing.
- Increase circulation with regular exercise: This can include walking or swimming but should not include anything too strenuous. Discuss your plans with your doctor.
- Manage your cholesterol and blood pressure: It is important to keep these at healthy levels.
- Elevate your legs when you’re resting: Prop them up on a few pillows, or recliner chairs are great for this.
- Stop smoking: We recommend discussing smoking cessation plans with your doctor.
- Eat a healthy diet: Aim for plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with avoiding sodium, sugar, and saturated fats.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol: If you prefer not to eliminate these, consider moderation.
- Avoid staying in one position for extended periods: Try to take a break at least every hour.
Treating your poor circulation may also involve one of the following, depending on what’s causing it:
- Insulin (if diabetes is the root cause)
- Taking medication, such as blood thinners, to dissolve clots
- Taking prescribed medications to treat Raynaud’s disease
- Vein treatment for varicose veins
One or more of these factors should help alleviate poor circulation in legs symptoms. For personalized recommendations on how to improve leg circulation, consult a medical professional.
Contact USA Vein Clinics to Improve Leg Circulation
Whether it’s varicose veins, spider veins, or venous ulcers, our clinics treat a variety of vein disease conditions. Vein treatment usually takes less than an hour, from start to finish. If you believe you are suffering from vein disease, contact us at 888.768.3467 or schedule an appointment online.
 “Atherosclerosis – What Is Atherosclerosis?,” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), accessed May 3, 2022, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis.
 “Raynaud’s Disease: Treatment, Causes, and Symptoms,” Medical News Today (MediLexicon International), accessed May 3, 2022, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/176713.