11 Symptoms of Poor Circulation in the Legs and Feet

In many cases, poor circulation in legs and feet is due to an inadequate lifestyle. The best option to prevent this problem is to acquire healthy habits and stay active.
11 Symptoms of Poor Circulation in the Legs and Feet
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 09 October, 2022

Poor circulation in the legs and feet is a situation in which the blood has difficulty passing through the veins and arteries. Many times it’s due to genetic causes, but it’s also possible that it’s an acquired problem.

In some cases, it’s a temporary condition, while in other cases, it can become a chronic problem. Poor circulation in the legs and feet can also be the effect of an underlying disease.

Poor circulation in the legs and feet

poor circulation in legs and feet
When blood doesn’t flow properly to the legs and feet, various types of discomfort can occur.

Poor circulation in the legs and feet is a condition in which blood doesn’t flow properly through the veins and arteries. This can lead to various complications that, on some occasions, can become serious.

There are many reasons for this condition. The most common are the following:

  • Heredity. This is the most important factor. An inadequate structure of the circulatory system brings problems.
  • Pregnancy. Hormonal changes dilate the veins and hinder good circulation.
  • Excess weight and sedentary lifestyle. These conditions make it more difficult for blood to return from the legs and feet to and from the rest of the body.
  • Aging. Blood vessels age and make circulation more difficult.
  • The use of contraceptives. They cause hormonal changes that sometimes make circulation more difficult.
  • Posture. Prolonged standing, sitting, or cross-legged posture makes circulation less fluid.
  • Alcohol and tobacco consumption.
  • Stress.
  • Arteriosclerosis. This is a condition in which there are fatty plaques in the blood vessels, and this prevents normal circulation.
  • Other chronic diseases. Untreated diabetes and hypertension also cause circulatory problems.

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11 symptoms of poor circulation in legs and feet

Poor circulation in the legs and feet causes various symptoms. Some are very obvious, such as swelling in these areas. Others often go more unnoticed, such as changes in the skin and nails. Let’s take a look at what the most common manifestations are.

1. Swelling

Swelling is a symptom of poor circulation in the legs and feet. When the walls of the veins are weak, there’s an accumulation of blood that leads to the widening of these veins. This also gives rise to the famous varicose veins. The risk of this condition is moderate: it isn’t serious on its own, but it could lead to complications.

2. Spider veins

Spider veins are small dilated veins that can be observed under the skin. They usually look similar to spider webs or tree branches. They’re almost always red and don’t protrude, nor do they appear to have any volume. They resemble varicose veins, but are smaller. They’re caused by poor circulation in the legs and feet.

3. Tingling and cramps

A tingling sensation in the legs indicates poor circulation. If there’s cramping in addition to this, it means that the problem may be more serious. It’s possible that this is the result of fatty deposits that block normal blood flow and cause these sensations.

4. Toenail changes

Poor circulation in the legs and feet can also cause changes in the color and volume of the toenails. If they become thicker and have a blue to a purple hue, this may be the result of poor oxygenation caused by poor circulation. This symptom also occurs in the case of respiratory or heart disease.

5. Changes in skin color

When the color of the skin of the feet or legs changes, it’s possible that this is due to poor circulation. If so, the feet may appear whitish or purplish. Also, brown spots may appear on the feet and legs, which could be a sign that the problem has progressed.

6. Tiredness and lack of speed

Fatigue and a rapid and heavy feeling in the limbs are also symptoms of poor circulation in the legs and feet. There’s often the sensation that it isn’t easy to move with agility, and when doing so, fatigue appears very easily. It’s possible that this is due to the fact that nutrients don’t reach these areas correctly due to abnormal circulation.

7. Temperature changes

When the blood does not flow properly, it’s common to suddenly experience a very cold or very hot sensation in the feet and legs. This is because the blood flow is not normal, and it takes longer to reach or return to and from these areas. This results in body temperature changes.

Like this article? You may also like to read: How to Improve Circulation in Your Legs During Lockdown

8. Dry and hard skin

Although it may not seem like it, poor circulation in the legs and feet also leads to a change in the texture of the skin in those areas. The skin may become stiffer and stiffer, and it also may look thicker. Peeling may occur. This is not always a sign of circulatory problems, but it can be.

9. Slow healing

If there’s poor circulation, the white blood cells don’t move at an adequate rate through the limbs. This affects the immune mechanisms. As a result, wounds may take longer to close and heal. In fact, sometimes sores appear on the legs or feet, which can develop into ulcers. This is a sign of poor circulation.

10. Intermittent claudication

Intermittent claudication is one of the symptoms of arteriosclerosis. This is a disease in which there’s blockage of the arteries due to the accumulation of fatty deposits. One of its effects is poor circulation in the legs and feet. A person with this condition often experiences pain after walking a few steps.

11. Other possible symptoms 

Two other signs of poor circulation in the legs and feet are thought to be the absence of hair in this area and cracking in the heels. These manifestations cannot be treated as a direct symptom, but they do suggest that there may be circulatory problems.

What to do about poor circulation in the legs and feet

poor circulation in legs and feet
Regular physical exercise can help to improve blood circulation in the legs and feet. So can massages.

Obviously, the treatment of poor circulation in the legs and feet will depend on the cause of the poor circulation. In general terms, it’s advisable not to remain in the same position for long periods of time, to do regular physical activity, and to wear comfortable clothes and shoes.

If the problem is recurrent, the best thing to do is to see a doctor. You may only need to make some adjustments to your diet and lifestyle in general. In some cases, the use of compression stockings and habits such as elevating the legs at night for a few minutes is recommended.

If the problem is more serious or there’s an underlying disease, your doctor will indicate what steps to take. According to the condition of each patient and their state of severity, there may be different treatment options.

Prevent poor circulation with healthy habits

Poor circulation in the legs and feet isn’t something that should be overlooked. If symptoms occur frequently or are severe, it’s best to discuss them with your doctor so that he or she can take appropriate action.

A healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent poor circulation in the legs and feet. Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and maintaining a good state of mind are the pillars of good health.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Rueda Pérez, C. A. (2021). Visualización de venas y arterias por contraste de fase de rayos X.
  • Arrate Negret, M. M., Linares Despaigne, M. D. J., Molina Hechavarría, V., Sánchez Imbert, N., & Arias Carbonell, M. M. (2013). Efectos secundarios de los anticonceptivos hormonales en usuarias del método asistentes a las consultas de planificación familiar. Medisan, 17(3), 415-425.
  • Calderón Simbaña, J. A. (2021). Sistema Masajeador para las extremidades inferiores (Bachelor’s thesis).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.