Cold hands and feet are a common problem, but they are also telltale signs that you have poor circulation.
But they’re not the only giveaways, experts say.
Here, MailOnline reveals some of the unexpected warning signs of poor circulation, according to a vascular surgeon.
Poor circulation occurs in people with obesity, diabetes and heart disease and can lead to extreme consequences, including amputation. Symptoms include no hair on your legs, memory loss, and even an upset stomach
Shiny skin and cold feet
Having cold feet and hands is a known sign of poor circulation.
It is caused by blood having difficulty reaching the extremities due to narrowed blood vessels.
As a result, the hands and feet may feel cold and appear blue or purple when sitting and pale or white when lying down.
Sufferers may also experience numbness or pins and needles in their extremities and pain in their calves when walking.
But shiny and tight skin is a lesser known symptom that can affect the lower legs and feet of people with poor circulation.
It is caused by the skin deteriorating due to a lack of blood flow.
While these symptoms may not immediately sound alarming, restricted blood flow can be caused by life-threatening clogged arteries, says Professor Alun Davies, a vascular surgeon and lecturer at Imperial College London.
Known medically as atherosclerosis, blocked arteries are caused by the buildup of fatty material in the arteries and can lead to heart disease, heart attack or stroke.
It can be difficult to determine if you’re just dealing with cold toes and dry skin, or if it’s a warning sign of something more serious.
But a common sign that it’s caused by poor circulation is if your body is warm but your feet are still freezing cold.
Professor Davies said: ‘Lack of blood supply to the legs is a common cause of cold feet.
And while some may struggle with pain caused by poor circulation, numbness can be just as bad.
“Pins and needles associated with numbness in the feet can not only be uncomfortable, but can also cause balance problems and mask potential foot injuries.”
It may sound obvious, but cold feet and hands are a sign of poor circulation. But it can be hard to tell if it’s something serious. Numbness, shiny skin and a lack of hair can indicate poor circulation
No hair on your legs
While slippery legs may not seem like a bad thing, it could be a sign of poor circulation.
Accidental hair loss on the legs can mean that not enough blood is getting to those areas, causing the hair follicles to die due to a lack of nutrients.
‘This is more apparent in men, with many noticing a distinct ‘sockline’ of hairless skin,’ says Professor Davies.
He explained that this lack of blood supply to the legs can quickly escalate into more dangerous symptoms, such as nerve and tissue damage.
It is vital to get ahead of the symptoms by seeking advice from your GP to identify the underlying cause and start treatment.
Left untreated, a lack of blood supply to the legs can cause the tissue to die from the lack of oxygen and nutrients, according to the Vascular Charity.
This can eventually cause life-threatening gangrene – a form of tissue death – requiring amputation in severe cases.
Long-standing sores that don’t heal within two weeks are most likely a sign of poor circulation, experts say.
They usually develop on the inside of the leg, between the knee and ankle, and can cause pain, itching, and swelling in the affected leg.
There may also be discolored or hardened skin around the ulcer, with foul-smelling discharge oozing from the ulcer.
Professor Davies said: ‘These open sores are common on the lower leg and some present without pain, meaning many consider them harmless.
“Any recurrent ulcer or a sore that does not heal should not be ignored and should be treated to prevent infection and further complications.”
Those with medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity are more prone to poor circulation, but it can affect anyone at any age.
People with diabetes also suffer from foot and leg ulcers due to lack of circulation and nerve damage caused by high blood sugar levels.
Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and striking a good balance between exercise and resting your legs can help prevent the sores from happening again, according to the NHS.
Unintentional hair loss on the legs can mean not enough blood is getting to those areas, causing hair follicles to die from not getting enough nourishment
Poor circulation affects all parts of your body, including your vital organs.
Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and blood in your poop are all unpleasant symptoms that are usually attributed to your last meal or a stomach flu.
But experts say that in very rare cases, these symptoms could be a sign of poor blood flow to your digestive organs.
Professor Davies said: ‘As with all vital organs, your stomach needs a stream of oxygenated blood to function properly.
‘Organ failure due to limited blood flow can lead to digestive problems and lack of appetite because the metabolism slows down.’
Feeling inexplicably dizzy, losing your balance and being forgetful are symptoms more commonly associated with brain injury, tumor or even Alzheimer’s disease.
But it can also be a sign that not enough blood is getting to the brain.
If you have poor circulation and a lack of blood reaching the brain, the organ will begin to cut back on certain functions, including memory and balance, says Professor Davies.
According to the NHS, exercise is a simple way to improve your circulation.
Exercise promotes healthy circulation as your muscles help to squeeze your veins, which allows for better blood flow.
Smoking can also damage your circulation, as can wearing ill-fitting shoes, the NHS says.
WHAT IS BAD CIRCULATION?
Poor circulation is when the blood vessels in your legs become hard or narrow.
As a result, blood flow to the feet and legs is reduced, preventing vital nutrients and oxygen from reaching your soft tissues.
Poor blood flow can also occur when waste builds up in your soft tissues.
Symptoms may include thin and dry skin on the feet and legs, hair loss on the legs, and cold feet. It can also lead to pain in the calf muscles when walking short distances.
Poor blood flow makes the skin on your feet and legs more susceptible to injuries, infections, and ulcers.
Following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking can reduce the risk of poor circulation, as well as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.