If your hands and feet stay cold, perhaps even numb, it’s an almost sure sign you have poor circulation. While decreased blood flow can be a symptom of several medical problems, one of the most common is diabetes.
The symptom might seem mild, but if left unchecked, poor circulation puts you at risk for limb, heart, kidney, brain, and eye damage.
Consequently, it’s important to know how your poor circulation developed and how you can improve the condition.
How Does Diabetes-Related Poor Circulation Happen?
Diabetes can lead to poor circulation in several ways. In many cases, high glucose levels can be the culprit. Over time, high glucose levels in your blood can cause damage to the lining of your small blood vessels, impeding your circulation.
Diabetes also increases your risk of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Based on data from the American Diabetes Association, 1 in 3 people over age 50 with diabetes has PAD. The fatty deposits common to this condition narrow the blood vessels, mainly in your legs and feet. As this happens, your chances of having a stroke or heart attack rise significantly.
Identifying Poor Circulation
Diabetic neuropathy — cold or numb hands or feet — is a common sign of poor circulation in diabetes. However, according to United Kingdom-based Global Diabetes Community, you should alert your doctor if you experience these symptoms, as well:
Pain when walking, particularly in calves, thighs, and buttocks
Chest pain during exertion
High blood pressure
Infections in your feet
Hair loss on legs or feet
Dry, cracked skin on feet
Slow-healing wounds on feet
Can You Improve Your Circulation?
Yes, you can. According to The Diabetes Council, there are several things you can to do improve your blood flow.
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve blood flow to your hands, feet, legs, and other parts of the body. At least five days a week, try to bike, run, walk, swim, or get some other type of aerobic exercise for 30 minutes. In fact, according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, exercising consistently for 6 months can produce a 20-percent improvement in ankle blood pressure. This reduction points to PAD improvement, as well as increased circulation.
Keep your blood sugar levels under control. Aim for keeping your blood sugar at the levels recommended by the American Diabetes Association for both before and after meals.
Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, trying to maintain levels recommended by the American Heart Association. Take medication, if necessary.
Wear warm diabetic (compression) socks. If your feet can’t feel temperature, avoid putting them in a hot bath.
Check your feet daily for any injuries.
Pay attention to what your body tells you. If you start to develop symptoms of poor circulation, talk with your doctor or contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America. Addressing the problem early could prevent infections, amputations, and worsening cardiovascular health issues.
A non-healing wound that lingers can be annoying, but it should also be cause for great concern — especially if you have diabetes or are in the early steps of developing the disease. Chronic non-healing wounds, especially those that won’t heal within three months, can impact you more frequently and more significantly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, chronic wounds affect approximately 5.7 million adults, leading to nearly $20 billion in medical care costs. Knowing why these long-lasting sores develop can not only improve your health, but it could also reduce your medical expenses.
How Diabetes Puts You at Risk with a Non-Healing Wound
Diabetes does increase the likelihood that you’ll develop a chronic wound at some point. These sores frequently start small, such as a small pimple or scratch. However, even after repeatedly scabbing over, they won’t heal. If you notice this type of wound, contact your doctor for medical attention immediately.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are three factors that increase your risk for developing a chronic wound:
Neuropathy: Having limited feeling in your feet makes it harder to notice any small cuts or trauma to your feet. This increases your infection risk and can lead to a chronic wound.
Poor blood flow: Poor circulation limits how well your blood can bring the cells to your wound that can increase your likelihood of healing.
Infection: With diabetes, it’s harder for you to fight off infection. If your wound becomes infected, it could progressively worsen, putting you at risk for amputation.
Reducing Your Risk with Non-Healing Wounds
Although having diabetes makes you more vulnerable to chronic wounds, you can take steps to decrease your chances or bolster your healing abilities.
Proper footwear: Choose properly-fitted shoes that won’t create sores on your feet. Avoid pointed-toe shoes or ones that are too flat or high heels because they make it harder to distribute your foot pressure. Soft insole leather, canvas, or suede shoes will let your feet breathe, and laces, buckles, or Velcro will make adjusting shoes easier.
Manicure your toenails: Be sure to keep your toenails cut short. Longer nails put you at risk for scratches you might not be able to feel. Visit a podiatrist for foot care.
Control your blood sugar level: Actively monitor your glucose. If you’re pre-diabetic, make healthy food choices and exercise to control your weight and blood sugar levels. Your doctor could conduct an A1C test, measuring the percent of blood sugar attached to your red blood cells, to determine your blood sugar level over the past 2-3 months.
Eat well: Stay hydrated, and eat complex carbohydrates that help control your blood sugar, such as whole grains and vegetables. Also, be sure to eat enough protein because it supports new cell and tissue growth needed for wound healing. Chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, yogurt, peanut butter, and cheese are good options. Limiting your fat intake can also improve your immune system.
Ultimately, you need to take a chronic wound seriously. Don’t delay treatment — see your doctor or contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America as soon as you notice a non-healing wound or sore.