Your circulatory system is a vast network of arteries, veins, and capillaries that carries oxygen and nutrients from your heart to your organs and deoxygenated blood from the tissues to your heart. Any problem with the structure or function of the system can lead to poor circulation, creating a host of medical problems that can affect your limbs and place you at risk for life-threatening clots and lower-limb amputation.
At Heart Vascular & Leg Center in Bakersfield, California, board-certified cardiologist Dr. Vinod Kumar and his team specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of poor blood circulation. They want to help educate their patients about the problems with leg pain and poor circulation and show you why you can’t ignore them, so they’ve put together this guide to help you take charge of your cardiovascular health.
The causes of poor circulation
There are a number of different causes of poor circulation. These include:
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI)
Blood flows back from the body’s tissues to the heart via the venous system. That means blood in the lower portion of the body has to fight against gravity’s pull. One way to keep the blood flowing is for the calf muscles to contract; another is a set of one-way valves that close behind the blood that flows through.
If the pressure on the veins’ walls is too high, and the valves become damaged, blood can flow backward and pool around the damaged area. This stagnation is called chronic venous insufficiency. Blood accumulates in the veins, which bulge — varicose veins. These may be asymptomatic or may cause pain and a “heavy” feeling. They can also lead to more serious complications, including:
- Skin ulcers or sores that don’t heal or become infected
- Vein damage and bleeding
- Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
DVT occurs when a clot forms in one of the deep veins, usually in the legs, impeding normal circulation.
The most serious complication occurs when a section of the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs. There it causes a blockage known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). If the clot is small, and the person gets early and appropriate treatment, they can recover from PE, though there might be some lung damage. If the clot is large, it prevents blood from reaching the lungs and is fatal.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
PAD occurs when the arteries supplying blood to your legs become narrowed or blocked by plaque, a substance made of fat, calcium, and cholesterol. When the plaque hardens it can block blood flow through the arteries, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
People with PAD may experience peripheral numbness and weakness, putting them at risk for unnoticed sores that take a long time to heal and can turn gangrenous. If the tissue begins to deteriorate, you’re at risk for a lower-limb amputation, so you need to treat the condition as early as possible.
Diagnosis and treatment of poor circulation
Poor blood circulation is a serious condition, and you can’t just ignore it. You need medical attention, and the Heart Vascular & Leg Center can provide it. At your consultation, Dr. Kumar asks detailed questions about your symptoms, medical history, family history, and medications (including supplements) you take. He also asks about your lifestyle habits, such as diet, exercise, and smoking.
After a physical exam, he may suggest advanced diagnostic testing to determine the underlying cause of your circulation problems, including:
- Blood tests
- Vascular ultrasound
- Angiography (X-ray that uses an injected dye to assess blood flow)
- CO2 Angiography (X-ray that uses carbon dioxide to evaluate blood flow)
The team at Heart Vascular & Leg Center develops individualized treatment plans for their patients based on the underlying cause and severity of their circulatory problems. Your treatment plan may include:
- Lifestyle modifications (i.e., weight loss, stopping smoking)
- Use of compression stockings (prevents clots)
- Disease-specific medication (i.e., blood thinners to aid blood flow, statins to lower cholesterol)
The practice also specializes in minimally invasive, outpatient procedures like balloon angioplasty to open clogged arteries, stent insertion to keep arteries open, and atherectomy to break up and remove plaque.
If you’re experiencing leg pain or any of the symptoms of poor blood circulation, it’s time to see a specialist. Give Heart Vascular & Leg Center a call at 661-230-9659 to set up a consultation, or book your appointment online today. We also offer telemedicine visits.