Circulatory disorder in the feet


Circulatory disorders in the feet can have many causes and are manifested by a multitude of symptoms.

Sensory disturbances, pain, tingling, pale pale and poor wound healing of the affected extremity are among the signs of impaired blood circulation.

A circulatory disorder of the feet does not have to be caused by a disease of the vascular system in every case. There may be personal and gender differences in responding to stress and cold.


The symptoms of impaired blood circulation in the feet are wide-ranging. In addition to pale, cold extremities, a tingling sensation or occasional numbness of the lower extremities are among the initial symptoms of circulatory disorders.

In the advanced stage, pain also occurs, which can increase with exercise. If a severe circulatory disorder such as PAD is left untreated for a long time, the skin and tissue can be damaged. Vulnerable skin areas, wound healing disorders and chronic, sometimes open and infected pressure points appear. In the worst case, it can lead to black discolouration and the death of entire toes.
In addition to the damage to soft tissues, irreversible damage to the nerves can occur. A limited surface sensitivity can be the result.

Read more on the topic: Burning in the legs

Blue feet

If there is a circulatory disorder in the feet, they may turn pale due to the inadequate blood supply. The blue discoloration occurs because the foot is not supplied with sufficient oxygen via the blood.

However, blue feet do not only occur with circulatory disorders. They can also occur with poor blood reflux. Furthermore, heart defects or other harmless things can be the cause. It is advisable to consult a doctor for an exact clarification.

Cold feet

Young, slim women in particular often suffer from cold feet. The cause here is usually low blood pressure (hypotension). There is poor blood circulation, especially in the feet and hands. Hypotension can be uncomfortable, but it is not dangerous.

Cold feet also occur with dangerous circulatory disorders - for example with PAD (peripheral arterial occlusive disease). Vascular calcifications and arteriosclerosis lead to a blockage of arterial vessels in the legs and thus to an insufficient supply in the lower legs and feet.

It is advisable to keep your feet as warm as possible in order not to worsen the blood circulation.

Tingling in the feet

Tingling and other abnormal sensations in the legs are a common symptom. Everyone knows that uncomfortable tingling sensation when warm blood rushes into cold hands.

In addition to circulatory disorders, tingling can also occur in many other diseases. More often, the cause of a tingling sensation with complaints lies in the nerves. A typical disease here is polyneuropathy. Defects in the nerve endings lead to abnormal sensations such as tingling. A common cause of polyneuropathy is diabetes mellitus.

Because of the many possible causes, tingling in the legs should be carefully evaluated by a doctor.

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

Itchy feet

There are many different complaints behind itchy feet - athlete's foot, allergies, overstrain, metabolic diseases or rough feet.

However, itchy feet also occur with circulatory disorders. The itching occurs on the one hand due to the poor supply of nutrients to the feet and the lack of removal of various substances via the blood. On the other hand, poor blood circulation leads to dry, thinner skin that is prone to injury, which can easily lead to itching.

Swelling of the feet

Foot swelling is typical for venous circulatory disorders, as the return of blood from the foot to the heart is difficult. A swelling of the foot can also result from water retention in the tissue due to other diseases.

To a certain extent, everyone's feet swell during the day, mainly from standing. With venous weakness, the foot swelling is much more pronounced.

By raising the legs, the venous system can be supported and the swelling can more easily subside.

Circulatory disorder in the toes

The toes are particularly prone to circulatory disorders because their blood supply is not as extensive as compared to other parts of the body. You get pale and cold. In addition, numbness occurs.

Raynaud's syndrome can also occur on the toes, although it usually affects the fingers (see below).

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 disorders in the soles of the feet

A circulatory disorder in the sole of the foot is usually associated with poor circulation in the toes and the rest of the foot. The same symptoms occur.
Feelings of numbness, tingling and coldness occur on the feet. Pain in the sole of the foot is also possible, which repeatedly forces the person concerned to stop while walking.

Circulatory disorders after an operation

Circulatory disorders should not occur after an operation.
Under certain circumstances, however, small vessels can be injured during the operation, which can subsequently lead to poor blood flow.
However, after an operation, lying down can cause a blood clot to form, which blocks the blood vessels.

If you notice symptoms after an operation that indicate a circulatory disorder in the feet, contact your doctor immediately.

Which doctor treats a circulatory disorder?

A circulatory disorder in the feet can be treated by your family doctor.

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. These are often necessary for the treatment of PAD in an advanced stage.
Sometimes there is also a weak heart. In this case, this is treated by a cardiologist.
There are also doctors who specialize in the field of angiology. Angiology deals specifically with diseases of the blood vessels.

Read more on this topic: Which doctor treats a circulatory disorder?

Therapy of a circulatory disorder in the legs

A medical examination and advice can clarify whether a circulatory disorder in the feet needs treatment and which therapies can be initiated. However, the person affected can also contribute to improving the clinical picture through their own measures.

Read more about this under: Circulatory disorders therapy

What can I do to improve blood circulation myself?

The focus is on controlling the risk factors:

  • Smoke
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • high blood pressure

The nutritional aspect is especially important for patients with high blood lipid levels. You should pay particular attention to eating as low in fat as possible and avoiding the following foods:

  • butter
  • cream
  • high-fat dairy products (cheese)
  • fatty meats and sausages
  • egg yolk
  • alcohol

Sufficient physical activity is also important, since bypassing circuits, so-called collaterals, develop and the undersupplied areas of the body are supplied with blood on alternative arterial routes.

Affected patients are advised to look for a type of sport that primarily aims at endurance, such as walking, cycling, aqua fitness, hiking or cross-country skiing.

The latest studies show that it is best for patients to exercise for at least 15 minutes a day if possible.

If the patient already shows the typical symptoms and complaints of an arterial circulation disorder in the feet or if he is completely untrained in terms of sport, it is advisable to start with brisk walking at the beginning and gradually increase the duration and intensity. If you are already experiencing pain while walking, simply take a short break and then, as soon as your feet no longer hurt, continue.

Home remedies to improve circulatory disorders in the legs

There are a number of home remedies that one can use to get around. However, the use of these should always be discussed with the doctor.

Warm foot baths or alternating baths are a way of promoting blood circulation. These can be supplemented with a brush massage. However, it must be noted that foot baths may not be used in certain diseases.

Cayenne pepper or mountain pine oil can be rubbed into the affected area of ​​the body to increase the local circulation. However, these two agents should only be used on intact skin without injuries.

Consumption of onions and garlic has a positive effect on the blood vessels. This should also reduce the formation of arteriosclerosis.

In addition, ginkgo extracts, ginger tea and hawthorn have other positive properties and a blood circulation-promoting effect. In part, they prevent the blood from clumping.

Raynaud's Syndrome

The reduced blood flow to individual fingers or toes, or whole hands or feet, which occurs like an attack, is called Raynaud's syndrome. This is where the affected extremity turns pale and pains, usually triggered by cold or psychological stress. The white coloration is typically followed by a blue coloration called cyanosis with a subsequent reactive blood circulation, i.e. red coloration.

In most cases, the cause of the circulatory disorder cannot be identified, but occasionally various diseases of the blood-forming system such as leukemia or autoimmune diseases such as systemic scleroderma can trigger Raynaud's syndrome.

A cause that requires treatment should be clarified by a doctor. If this cannot be identified even after a thorough examination, those affected can reduce the occurrence of the circulatory disorder by avoiding the triggering factors. In the area of ​​the feet, for example, heated soles are ideal.

Peripheral arterial occlusive disease (PAD)

As peripheral arterial disease (PAOD) describes the chronic reduced blood supply to the extremities, which mostly occurs in the legs. In about 85% of cases, the cause is arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which in turn is favored by risk factors such as smoking, obesity, diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure.

In over 90% of cases, the lower extremities are affected, with the narrowing of the arteries occurring in about half of the cases in the area of ​​the femoral arteries, but can also be found in the pelvic arteries or in the lower leg.

The symptoms appear in the direction of blood flow behind the narrowing of the artery. If there is hardening of the arteries in an artery of the lower leg, the symptoms are to be expected in the foot.

PAD is typical of pain when exercising. These typically occur after walking a distance which, depending on the progression of the disease, can be less than 200m. As a rule, the symptoms improve if walking breaks are taken. One also speaks of "window sickness" because those affected linger at shop windows during their walking breaks. If the clinical picture is pronounced, it can lead to poorly healing wounds and even tissue decay (necrosis) on the foot or leg.

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes is of particular importance in the development of circulatory disorders of the feet in the context of peripheral arterial occlusive disease (PAD). Diabetics have a three to five times higher risk of developing PAD.
The reason for this is that the arteriosclerosis, which is the basis of PAOD in most cases, is favored by increased blood sugar and blood lipid values. If the family has already had frequent cases of diabetes, the blood sugar level should be checked regularly and, if necessary, reduced through dietary or medicinal measures.

In the case of diabetes, more severe courses of arterial occlusive disease are to be expected, since wound healing is impaired by the unfavorable metabolic situation and tissue deterioration can progress more quickly if the disease is pronounced. In addition, minor injuries or pressure sores, which can quickly develop into ulcers, are often noticed too late by the diabetic due to damage to the nervous system.