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"What causes poor circulation?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat causes poor circulation?


All of the women in my family have pretty bad circulation. We especially have trouble keeping our hands warm when it's cold outside. What causes this, though? Are there lifestyle factors we can change to improve it? Will it definitely get worse as I get older?


Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the United States so concerns about ones circulation are quite common. Peripheral artery disease can cause poor circulation in certain limbs. However, most people that get cold hands when its cold outside do not have any clinically important poor circulation in their limbs. With that said however, there are syndromes of poor hand and feet circulation that can be particularly dangerous. The most common in women is called Raynaud's phenomenon where arteries going to the fingers and toes clamp down. Symptoms include fingers turning blue or white from lack of blood flow. It is almost always associated with a connective tissue disease such as Lupus or Scleroderma and therefore is rarely the only symptom. Another example is Thromboangiitis obliterans, a syndrome similar to Raynaud's phenomenon but associated very closely with smoking. Obviously if you think your symptoms are severe enough, you should be evaluated for one of these syndromes. Life style changes you can make are limited to not smoking if you smoke. Its always a good idea to bring these issues up with your primary care physician who can evaluate your hands and determine if additional testing is warranted. Good luck.

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