Poor circulation to the feet, which is often referred to as peripheral vascular disease, is the result of a lack of oxygenated blood being pumped to the extremities (feet and hands) of the body. Poor circulation has several possible causes and risk factors and produces several distinctive symptoms.
Someone experiencing insufficient blood circulation to the feet may feel a variety of sensations, including numbness, tingling or the sensation of pins and needles. Peripheral arterial occlusion, or hardening of the arteries, can cause hands and feet to feel numb, tingly, heavy or tense. If these symptoms occur, along with pain or leg cramps from a short walk, poor concentration and memory, impotence or frigidity, it is advised to seek medical evaluation because hardening of the arteries is considered by many to be America's number one killer. Buerger's disease, a condition brought on by chronic inflammation of the blood vessels in smokers, can also cause a tingling sensation in the toes. A number of other conditions can cause numbness in the feet, including diabetic neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, a pinched nerve, rheumatoid arthritis and stroke, according to Dr. James Balch, author of "Prescription for Nutritional Healing."
Advanced chronic occlusive arterial disease can cause pain at rest, especially when lying down, that often manifests as a burning or tingling sensation with numbness of the toes. Claudication is a cramp-like pain that occurs in the legs and sometimes in the feet as a result of poor circulation to the legs, usually caused by atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis. Peripheral artery disease, where fatty deposits build up in the inner linings of artery walls and restrict blood circulation to the kidneys, stomach, arms, legs and feet, can cause intermittent claudication. This type of cramping or fatigue in the legs or feet, during activity, typically subsides when the person stands still.
Clogged leg arteries and blood clots can cause swelling, or edema, due to fluid accumulation in the tissues. Pain and coldness in the legs and feet are also common in these conditions, according to James Marion, author of "Anti-Aging Manual: The Encyclopedia of Natural Health."
Skin tissue that is chronically affected by poor blood supply may appear shiny, smooth and thin, with little or no hair on the surface. The toe nails may be thick and have deposits of corn-like material under them.
In tissues that are chronically deprived of oxygen, the skin may appear purplish-black or blueish in color, or they may appear colorless.
- "Prescription for Nutritional Healing;" James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C.; 1999
- "Anti-Aging Manual: The Encyclopedia of Natural Health;" Joseph B. Marion; 2005
- "Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health;" Benjamin F. Miller, M.D. and Claire Brackman Keane, R.N., B.S., M.Ed.; 1987
- American Heart Association: Peripheral Artery Disease