The circulatory system is the body’s blood transport system. A circulatory disorder is any disorder or condition that affects the circulatory system. Circulatory disorders can arise from problems with the heart, blood vessels or the blood itself. Disorders of the circulatory system generally result in diminished flow of blood and oxygen supply to the tissues.
Problems of the circulatory system are common and can be serious.
There are many causes of circulatory problems. They can be classified into 5 groups: traumatic, compressive, occlusive, tumors/malformations and vasospastic (spasm of the artery, which reduces its diameter and thus its blood flow). Circulatory problems may occur more commonly in individuals with certain diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, or kidney failure, or in dialysis patients. Occupational exposure (vibrating tools, cold) can be a factor, and smoking also can aggravate and cause circulatory disease.
Common conditions causing circulatory problems are:
Trauma – penetrating trauma such as a knife wound may damage the blood vessel. Occasionally, a seemingly innocuous cut appropriately located will cause major damage, or sometimes a blunt injury can bruise the vessels enough to cause a clot and stop the blood from flowing to the fingertips, which turn white, cold, and painful. Immediate reconstruction is usually necessary if blood flow has stopped. Other injuries may not be as severe, since there may be a variety of different arteries that can continue to provide blood flow to the area.
Aneurysms – an aneurysm is a localized weakness of the vessel wall that results in an isolated expansion of the vessel, like a balloon popping up. Usually these present as a soft painless mass over the vessel. The vessel may become blocked through the formation of a blood clot or may even shower small clots to the fingertips. Aneurysms of the wrist may cause cold intolerance, pain or numbness as they enlarge, and can occasionally cause gangrene of the fingertips.
Vascular malformations – when an abnormal connection exists between the veins and arteries, excess blood is shunted through these small vessels, which may become large and produce symptoms. When a significant volume of blood is re-directed through these small connecting vessels, patients can experience pain, sweating in the area, heaviness, increased temperature and hair growth, and spontaneous bleeding. When small, treatment may be as simple as a compression glove. However, when large and destructive, treatment might require surgical excision.
Raynaud’s – Raynaud’s phenomenon/disease describes a condition in which the arteries in the fingers go into spasm, depriving the finger of blood flow. The fingers typically change color, going from white to blue, then red as the spasm resolves and blood flow returns. It often occurs when the hand is exposed to cold or tobacco. Treatment entails cessation of smoking, avoiding cold weather, use of protective garments (e.g. mittens, gloves), and occasionally medicines that can help dilate the vessels and improve blood flow to the fingertips. When unresponsive to these measures or a non-healing ulcer is present, surgery to separate the nerves from around the vessels may be considered, to relieve the effect of the sympathetic nerves that contributes to spasm of the arteries.
Colour changes in th fingertips
Ulcers which do not heal
Numbness or tingling of the fingertips
Local areas of swelling around the vessels
Losing weight, a healthy diet that is low in fat and salt and high in omega 3 and vitamin E, regular exercise and not smoking can help circulatory disorders but patients with severe problems may require surgery. Other treatments include drug therapies such as anti-inflammatories and clot dissolvers; physiotherapy, exercise and massage; flowtron therapy; hyperbaric oxygen therapy; electromagnetic therapy; vibrotherapy and complementary approaches to improve blood flow, heal tissue and relieve pain, inflammation and fatigue.
RAMS Therapy Centre provides a range of therapies, designed specifically for Circulatory Disorders. Follow the links below for further information on these treatments. Therapies will be provided individually as stand-alone treatments or offered in combination. Each person will be assessed and advised on a suitable treatment programme.
Note: permission from your doctor or consultant is required before treatment begins.