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Poor Circulation in Arms

Poor Circulation in Arms

Lack of proper blood circulation throughout the body can lead to many problematic symptoms, which may trigger the onset of many serious medical conditions. This HealthHearty article throws light on the causes, associated symptoms, and preventive measures for poor circulation in arms.
Kalpana Kumari
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
Did You Know?
❝Your system of blood vessels -- arteries, veins and capillaries -- is over 60,000 miles long. That's long enough to go around the world more than twice!❞
― Cleveland Clinic

With the kind of lifestyle we all are leading today―sitting on computers, doing desk jobs, living a sedentary life―experiencing the phenomenon where our arms tend to "go to sleep" is pretty common. The underlying cause is nothing but poor blood circulation in the area. There could be various factors triggering the same. But before we get to explaining them, let us first understand how our blood circulatory system works, in a brief manner.
Our circulatory system―also known as the cardiovascular system―is responsible for supplying blood and other essential nutrients to the entire body. It consists of the heart, veins, arteries, capillaries, and, of course, blood. The arteries are responsible for supplying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the entire body, while the veins carry the used blood back to the heart, and hence the cycle continues. However, there are times when, due to certain reasons, this smooth process faces obstacles, resulting in an improper blood supply to certain areas of the body.
Symptoms of Improper Blood Circulation in Arms
When any part of your body is deprived of oxygen, it appears to go numb and you fail to feel any sensation in that area. Inadequate blood supply to the arms may cause symptoms such as tingling, burning sensation, numbness, skin appearing to be bluish in color, and poor healing of wounds. These are explained in brief as under.
➠ Numbness
This is the most obvious symptom of poor circulation, temporarily making you unable to feel any sensation in the arm at all. You may also experience stiffness and coldness in the arms, in some instances.
➠ Tingling
Numbness is followed by a tingling sensation in most cases. It is when you feel as if numerous small things are rapidly moving beneath the layer of your skin. Alternately, this feeling can also be described as if being pricked by pins and needles.
➠ Burning Sensation
At times, while trying to move the arm, you would feel a strong (or dull) burning sensation. This may or may not be accompanied by a stinging pain.
➠ Discoloration
Our skin tends to turn bluish in color when adequate oxygen is missing in the blood. Lack of proper oxygen supply makes the affected area appear pale and discolored.
➠ Slow Healing
The blood not only carries oxygen, but also the essential bodies that help in the process of healing and repairing wounds. The white blood cells and platelets play a crucial role in the process of healing wounds and fighting infections. If there is inadequate blood supply in the arm, the wounds may heal quite slowly than they normally do.
Some Common Causative Factors
There are a number of factors that lead to improper flow of blood in arms. The most common ones include, a bad posture, nutrient(s) deficiency, constriction of blood vessels due to low temperature, physical trauma, and health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, blood clots, etc. Certain lifestyle habits may also make you susceptible to impairment in your circulatory system. These include the habit of drinking alcohol, smoking, and excessive consumption of caffeine. All these factors are explained in a brief manner as under.
➠ Bad Posture
Continuously sitting or sleeping in a bad posture, that adds pressure to the arm, may cause obstruction in the blood supply. Because of the constriction of the blood vessels for a relatively long time period, one tends to experience numbness and stiffness when the arm is suddenly moved. This usually happens when you wake up in the morning, realizing that you had placed your head on the arm while sleeping!
➠ Blood Clots
There are many lifestyle habits that make us prone to the formation of blood clots in the arteries and other areas of the body. Factors such as high cholesterol, prolonged immobilization, and certain genetic factors, play a crucial role in their formation, thereby creating a blockage in the pathways of the blood vessels. This phenomenon can prove to be risky, as the blood clot may dislodge and travel to other areas such as the brain, heart, and lungs, leading to a fatal outcome such as a stroke or heart attack.
➠ Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Coldness and numbness in arms and hands are the uncommon symptoms of a heart disease. PAD is a type of antherosclerosis that affects the legs and arms. Here, the formation of cholesterol plaque in the arteries of the heart, tends to narrow or block them down, thereby reducing the blood supply. This condition increases the risk of heart failure and stroke.
➠ Raynaud's disease
This disease mostly affects those who live in colder climatic conditions. Here, the smaller arteries of the skin tend to become narrow, thereby constricting the amount of blood supply in certain areas of the body―including the arms and hands.
➠ Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
This condition is caused by a pinched nerve on the wrist that hinders circulation and causes symptoms such as tingling, numbness, and weakness in the hands and arms.
➠ Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic disease with a lot many complications and risks. These include vulnerability to heart diseases, formation of blood clots, strokes, and nerve damage. Diabetic neuropathy makes circulatory impairment all the more worse in these individuals, as they often fail to detect the symptoms of not getting enough of the oxygen-rich blood in their extremities.
➠ Obesity
Obesity may lead to poor blood circulation. Stanford Health Care states that the "extra weight can raise the heart rate and reduce the body's ability to transport blood through the vessels." Being obese and/or overweight can also put one under the risk of developing serious chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and more.
➠ Smoking
Did you know? The nicotine present in your everyday cigarette(s) tends to damage the lining of the blood vessels, thereby decreasing the rate of blood flow? If you are a heavy smoker, then there is a high possibility that it is this very habit causing this alarming symptom.
➠ Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Also known as 'Ulnar Nerve Entrapment' of the elbow, in this condition, the ulnar nerve gets compressed or irritated, thereby resulting in reduced blood circulation. The ulnar nerve begins from the neck and travels down to the hand. Factors such as an injury or trauma, fluid accumulation, and leaning on the arm for long periods can cause this problem.
➠ Nutritional Deficiency
Deficiency of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids in the diet may cause poor circulation. Vitamins B3, B12, E, C, and K are known to be essential for promoting proper blood circulation in the body.
➠ Other Causes
Neck/back injury
Reaction to certain medications or therapies
Lack of exercise
Alcoholism
Bone marrow disorder
Liver disease
Kidney disease
Lung disease
Tumors
What Should be Done
The treatment measures to cure this problem would depend upon the underlying trigger(s). For causes such as nutritional deficiency or an improper posture, a change in lifestyle would help resolve the issue. However, if poor circulation is a symptom of serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and the like, then a proper treatment plan made by a trusted physician needs to be followed. The following points consist of some helpful tips to prevent poor circulation.
Eat a well-balanced diet. This will eliminate nutritional deficiencies, if any.
Wear comfortable clothes with loose or free sleeves to avoid tightness or pressure around the arms.
Protect yourself from low temperatures. Try to avoid handling cold objects as well.
Stay physically active. It will keep your body warm, as well as improve blood circulation.
Avoid taking substances that can constrict blood vessels. These include caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
Increase the intake of foods such as garlic, ginger, mustard, and chili. They help in keeping the body warm and stimulate blood flow.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a replacement for expert medical advice. Kindly consult a trusted physician for accurate diagnosis, followed by a relevant treatment plan. If the symptoms are extremely bothersome, fix an appointment with a doctor immediately.