Circulatory disorder in the arm


We speak of a circulatory disorder in the arm when overall less blood and therefore less oxygen arrives in the arm or less blood can flow out of the arm than usual.

How do you recognize a circulatory disorder in the arm?

The symptoms of circulatory disorders usually increase depending on their severity.
A first and rather harmless symptom are cold hands. Many people who have cold hands do not have a serious blood circulation deficit but instead have low blood pressure. Women in particular are affected. If, however, there is a lot less blood in the arm, the whole extremity can be cooler and paler, depending on where the problem underlying the disorder is located.

Another symptom of the disorder is pain. Both too much blood and too little blood in the arm cause pain. Numbness or tingling sensations can also indicate a problem.

Read more on the topic: Cold hands


Pain is definitely a common symptom for circulatory disorders. However, pain alone is reversed no indicator of circulatory disorders. Orthopedic problems like Overloads, Accidents or Inflammation are much more common causes.

When there is indeed a circulatory disorder, the pain usually occurs in the area with less oxygen.

If for example a more permanent If a vessel is blocked, the pain is permanent.

When the closure acute is the pain begin suddenly. But if there is a temporary blockage, the pain will temporarily disappear.


Tingling and other abnormal sensations are common symptoms. Everyone experiences the uncomfortable tingling sensation when warm blood rushes back into cold hands. In addition to circulatory disorders, tingling can also occur in many other diseases. Often the cause of a tingling sensation lies in complaints in the nerves, which also lead to further abnormal sensations. In carpal tunnel syndrome, there may be a tingling sensation and pain in the hand due to a pinched nerve. A doctor should be consulted for an exact clarification.

Can a tingling sensation indicate a circulatory disorder? Read more about this here.

Therapy of circulatory disorders in the arm

The therapy of a circulatory disorder depends on its cause.

Painkillers such as ibuprofen can be taken to achieve quick, short-term improvement until the final therapy. Application of cold or heat can also help. If a mechanical obstruction interferes with blood flow, it should be removed. These include the splitting of the connective tissue cord over the carpal tunnel or the removal of ribs that strongly press the arm arteries.

Medicines can be used for some forms of circulatory disorders. If atherosclerosis is a general problem for the patient, prophylactic ASA can be taken. In the case of vascular spasms such as Raynaud's syndrome of the hand, calcium channel blockers help to reduce painful vascular spasms. But also drugs such as Naftidrofuryl can improve the condition. If there is inflammation, steroids such as cortisone are given over a period of a few days to weeks to quickly contain the inflammation.

Read more on the topic:

  • Therapy of circulatory disorders
  • Medicines for circulatory disorders

Home remedies for circulatory disorders in the arm

There are a number of home remedies available to improve blood circulation.

Initially, arm water baths can promote blood circulation. However, there are diseases in which arm baths are contraindicated. Therefore the attending physician should be informed about it. This also applies to the use of other home remedies.
Furthermore apply

  • Ginko,
  • Hawthorn and
  • Ginger tea promotes blood circulation.
  • Also onions and
  • Garlic is said to have a positive effect on the blood vessels.
  • For external use and to improve local circulation, cayenne pepper or
  • Mountain pine oil can be used.
  • In general, exercise and sport also have a positive effect on blood circulation.

Learn more at: Homeopathy for circulatory disorders

What causes circulatory disorders in the arm?

Basically, one can differentiate whether there is too much or too little blood in the arm due to the circulatory disorder. In the case of a thrombosis, a clot forms on the vessel wall, for example if a central venous catheter is in place or the arm is in an unfavorable position. This clot clogs the venous system so that less blood can drain away. As a result, of course, there is also less fresh blood containing oxygen. The arm is swollen, sore and usually cooler than the other arm.

It is similar with an embolism. The clot does not form directly on site but is washed in from another location and closes the vessel. Sometimes this is the case with broken bones in the forearm.

Arteriosclerosis describes the hardening of the arteries. The inside of the artery is narrowed by deposits in the vessel wall. Risk factors are an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, high blood lipid levels, diabetes mellitus and nicotine consumption.

Thoracic outlet syndrome describes the narrowing of the vessels and nerves that supply the arm in the area of ​​the neck, ribs and collarbone. Symptoms worsen when working overhead. In these situations, a pulse deficit (weaker or absent pulse) develops, which is accompanied by pain and numbness in the arm.

In subclavian steal syndrome, the Brachial arterythat supplies the arm, is pinched or narrowed. One possibility is compression by an additional rib or the more common arteriosclerosis.Due to the constriction, too little blood arrives in the arm, resulting in pain, numbness, tingling, coolness and paleness. In addition, there is a gradient from the arteries supplying the head in the direction of the arms, so that the brain is insufficiently supplied. Dizziness, impaired vision or hearing may indicate this.

Vasculitis is when a vessel is inflamed. The problem with vascular inflammation is damage to the vascular wall, on which occlusions can form. There is an example of vasculitis on the arms Winniwarter burger, which inflames the smaller arteries of young men who smoke. As a result, thrombosis and necrosis occur, the fingers turn black and die. Only an immediate cessation of smoking and medication that reopen the vessels can prevent this.

Finally, there is also a vascular spasm as a possible cause of the circulatory disorder. The vascular muscles contract in response to external stimuli such as cold or stress.

Circulatory disorder in the hand

A common circulatory disorder that only affects the hand is Raynaud's disease. This is a painful contraction (Contracture) the vascular muscles, which leads to an insufficient supply of the hand. Overall, around 3-5% of the population are affected. Most of the time it is young women whose vessels are sensitive to cold or stressful situations.

Another cause of circulatory disorders in the hand is carpal tunnel syndrome. In this process, nerves and vessels in the area of ​​the wrist are constricted by a cord of connective tissue (retinaculum flexorum). Symptoms are pain that initially occurs primarily at night, tingling and numbness, and the hand fades when the artery is also narrowed. By splitting the retinaculum, the tightness is removed and the symptoms recede.

Read more on the topic: Carpal tunnel syndrome and circulatory disorders of the hands

Circulatory disorders of the fingers

A typical sudden circulatory disorder in the fingers is Raynaud's syndrome, which mostly affects slim young women. Frequent cold fingers or hands can also indicate a lack of blood flow. A harmless reason for this is too low blood pressure, from which young women in particular suffer. Another possible cause of circulatory disorder in the fingers is various inflammatory vascular diseases.

Circulatory disorders in Raynaud's syndrome

In Raynaud's syndrome, the fingers become pale after exposure to stress or cold. This can go so far that the fingers turn blue due to the lack of blood flow. Then there is an increased blood flow to the fingers, so that they become reddish.

Raynaud's syndrome often occurs in systematic diseases, especially in diseases of the rheumatic type. However, it can also occur alone. If Raynaud's syndrome occurs, it is important to rule out a systemic disease that requires treatment.

Mostly there is no triggering cause. Autoimmune diseases or previous damage to the arteries are rare. Typically, Raynaud begins with the fingers turning white. A persistent undersupply of oxygen makes them blue. After the vascular spasm has resolved, they turn fiery red. Many Raynaud's attacks can be stopped by abstaining from nicotine, protecting against the cold and reducing stress. In severe cases, drugs such as calcium inhibitors can be administered to keep the blood vessel open prophylactically.

Read more on the topic: Raynaud's Syndrome

Not only the arms can be affected by Raynaud's syndrome, it can also lead to a circulatory disorder in the toes. For the most important information on the subject of "Circulatory disorders in the toes", please also read the following article: Circulatory disorder in the toes

Circulatory problems in the arms and legs

Circulatory disorders occur much more frequently in the legs than in the arms.
In many cases, arteriosclerosis leads to poor blood circulation. With arteriosclerosis, deposits or calcifications lead to a narrowing of the blood vessel and difficult blood flow. Since atherosclerosis occurs throughout the body, it is not uncommon for multiple parts of the body to be affected by poor circulation. Atherosclerosis increases chronically over the years.

Atherosclerosis is aggravated primarily by smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus. But blood lipid levels that are too high also contribute to the formation of arteriosclerosis. The disease that results from this is called PAOD (peripheral arterial arterial disease). This usually manifests itself in the legs. However, the arms can rarely be affected.
Depending on its severity, it leads to pain in the legs after a certain walking distance, which then makes the person concerned stop. In colloquial language one also speaks of intermittent claudication.

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Circulatory disorder in one arm only - right or left

There is usually no difference between right and left arm circulatory disorders. All of the causes discussed here can affect both arms.

Circulatory disorders in the arm during pregnancy

During pregnancy, clotting increases to reduce blood loss during childbirth.

During pregnancy, the vascular system is also confronted with extensive changes from its normal state. The blood volume and heart rate increase.

The red blood cells also multiply, but not to the extent that the blood volume increases. As a result, there are relatively fewer red blood cells that carry the oxygen. Ultimately, the coagulation system is strengthened in order to keep blood loss as low as possible after birth.

The hands are often affected during pregnancy, mainly at night. This is due to the carpal tunnel syndrome, which is described in more detail in the “Hand” subsection.

Diagnosis of circulatory disorders in the arm

To determine the cause, a precise anamnesis is first taken, for example to inquire about risk factors for arteriosclerosis. The time and duration as well as the trigger of the symptoms can also provide an initial indication. With an ultrasound and a Doppler examination, the permeability and flow behavior of veins and arteries can be shown. Obstacles are revealed. If necessary, a CT or MRI examination with contrast agent in the vessels can also be performed. For example, to rule out an additional rib as the cause of the circulatory disorder, an X-ray can be helpful.

In Raynaud's syndrome, a cold provocation can be used to trigger an attack and to ensure the connection.

Which doctor treats circulatory disorders in the arms?

A circulatory disorder in the arms can first be assessed by your family doctor and treated if necessary. Depending on the cause of the circulatory disorder, other specialists may have to be called in for treatment.
Vascular surgeons perform surgical interventions on the vessels. If problems in the heart lead to the circulatory disorder, a cardiologist is called in for therapy. There are also doctors who specialize in the field of angiology. Angiology deals specifically with diseases of the blood vessels.

More detailed information can be found at: Which doctor treats a circulatory disorder?

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