Amongst the many symptoms of multiple sclerosis, do you consider poor circulation to be one of the major players?
Like many people with MS I suffer from extreme heat intolerance. I thought that I had found the answer when I discovered that mitochondria are the energy cells of our bodies and are responsible for heat generation and temperature regulation.
But, this is only part of the problem. Mitochondria convert sugars and oxygen into the energy that powers our bodies. The sugars and the oxygen are delivered to the cells by the blood. Mitochondria are cell organelles that exist in almost every cell in the body and for them to operate at the optimum level we must ensure they have an adequate supply of nutrients and oxygen.
Our lungs absorb the oxygen from the air that we breathe, our digestive system extracts nutrients from the food that we eat and our blood delivers the oxygen and nutrients to the tissue cells for conversion into energy.
Therefore, it should be obvious that good circulation is a very important part of this life process.
The Circulatory System
Moving the blood around our bodies is the responsibility of our circulatory system. At the centre of the circulatory system is the heart. Blood is pumped by the heart through a vast network of veins, arteries and capillaries.
The main blood vessels are the veins and the arteries. Arteries carry the blood away from the heart, while it is the veins that return the blood to the heart. The circulating blood is dispersed to the muscles and organs via a complex mesh of fine blood vessels called capillaries.
This mesh of capillaries delivers the oxygen and nutrients to the cells AND collects the waste products from the cells to be filtered out from the blood by the liver and kidneys.
If the circulation deteriorates then the blood is not delivered effectively to the cells, particularly to the cells in the extremities of the body, like the hands and feet.
The circulation of blood can become impaired if the blood vessels become constricted or narrowed, Narrowed blood vessels will cause poor circulation with a number of symptoms indicating reduced blood circulation.
Narrowed arteries can cause numbness, tingling, nerve damage or even tissue damage. If multiple sclerosis causes us to have a more sedentary lifestyle, poor circulation will become more pronounced.
Health conditions associated with poor blood circulation are Raynaud’s Syndrome or Raynaud’s Phenomenon which occurs from a severe blood flow reaction to the cold. A less common circulation problem is Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency or CCSVI.
Symptoms of Poor Circulation
- Numbness and Tingling in Extremities
- Brain Fog
- Muscle Cramps
But, all of the above symptoms will be very familiar to anyone with multiple sclerosis.
However, it is not usual to associate poor circulation with MS. The MS Wellness Route have a very good article on circulation Issues in MS.
- Extremities turn White
- Extremities turn Blue
While these are possible symptoms of very severe multiple sclerosis. They are characteristic of Raynaud’s Phenomenon.
Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency or CCSVI is a condition where a blocked vein limits blood flow to the CNS. This is a controversial subject and the connection to multiple sclerosis (MS) is, at best, dubious.
A highly controversial proposal suggested that CCSVI causes MS. And an, equally questionable, operation. a transvascular autonomic modulation (TVAM) is a surgery on the blood vessels in the neck that could alleviate MS.
But, a contributor to the MS Wellness Route has undergone the CCSVI procedure and claims great success. After the surgery, the individual could lift their leg without assistance.
Furthermore, the procedure appears to have cured their Raynaud’s Phenomenon.
To increase the controversy surrounding these claims, the Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning regarding TVAM and has withheld authorisation for the surgery in the United States.
Causes of Poor Circulation
Our body’s circulation system is important and complex. The heart is the pump that moves blood around the body. The blood collects oxygen from the lungs and transports it to the cells to feed the mitochondria.. It also pumps blood past the intestines where it absorbs nutrients from the food we eat.
A complex mesh of veins and arteries transports the oxygen-enriched,, nutrient-laden blood, Where the mitochondria in almost every cell of the human body use the oxygen and nutrients to provide the energy we use for every aspect of our lives.
If we have poor circulation, our cells will not receive the optimum levels of oxygen and nutrients we all need for good health.
Symptoms of Poor Circulation
The most common symptoms of poor circulation are:
- Throbbing or Stinging Pain
- Muscle cramps
A number of conditions may result in poor circulation and each comes with a unique set of symptoms.
Peripheral artery disease
A circulatory condition, Peripheral artery disease (PAD), causes narrowing of the arteries and blood vessels. A related condition, atherosclerosis, makes the arteries stiffen because of a plaque buildup. Both conditions limit the blood flow to your extremities and can cause pain.
Reduced blood flow in the carotid arteries may cause stroke. The carotid arteries are the main blood supply to the brain, home to the bulk of your mitochondria. If plaque buildup takes occurs in the arteries of the heart, there will be an increased risk of coronary arrest.
The formation of blood clots can happen anywhere in the body, and where they do form they impede the normal flow of blood.
The presence of blood clots in the circulatory system can be very serious. If blood clots enter the heart there is a very real risk of cardiac arrest.. If the blood clot is restricting the blood flow to the brain, a stroke is a real possibility.
Types of Blood Clot
The circulation system comprises veins and arteries. Blood clots can form in either of the blood vessel types.
Where a clot forms in an artery, it is known as an arterial clot. An arterial clot causes immediate symptoms and needs urgent treatment. An arterial clot can cause severe pain, localised paralysis and could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
A clot forming in a vein is a venous clot. Generally, venous clots build up slowly, over time. But, they can, equally, have life-threatening consequences. Deep vein thrombosis is the most type of venous clot.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
While it is most common for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) to form in the legs. It can form in your arms, pelvis, lungs or even in the brain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source estimates that DVT, together with pulmonary embolism affects up to 900,000, and kills 100,00 Americans annually. A pulmonary embolism is a type of venous clot affecting the lungs.
You may know of diabetes as a condition that causes difficulty in maintaining the correct blood sugar levels. But, diabetes can cause poor circulation in specific areas of the body. Diabetic poor circulation causes pain in the calves, thighs or buttocks. These pains tend to be more prevalent during periods of activity.
However, diabetic neuropathy can reduce sensation in the extremiries nasking the circulation pains.
People with diabetes are at a greater risk for atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Being excessively overweight has many health implications. If you’re carrying too much fat, you are much more likely to be inactive and sedentary. This lack of exercise will only exacerbate any circulation problems.
Being overweight puts you at an increased risk of varicose veins and other blood vessel problems.
Diagnosing Poor Circulation
Many of the tests that will be carried out when you are suspected of having poor circulation will be elimination tests, to rule out other potential health problems.
Your doctor will conduct a physical examination to assess pain and swelling.
Additionally, he or she may order:
- an antibodies blood test to detect inflammatory conditions, such as Raynaud’s disease
- a blood sugar test for diabetes
- blood testing to look for high levels of D dimer, protein test for absorbed clots, in the case of a blood clot
- an ultrasound or CT scan
- blood pressure tests including testing of the legs
How to treat Poor Circulation
While it is rare for Multiple Sclerosis to directly cause poor circulation, several MS symptoms can lead to circulatory system problems. Fatigue will make exercise an unattractive proposition but, keeping your body moving is one of the best ways tp keep the circulation moving.
- Elevate your feet to reduce the likelihood of blood getting trapped in your lower extremities. Lie down with your legs propped up on a cushion keeping your feet above the level of your heart. Do this for 20 minutes, several times a day to improve your circulation and help eliminate swelling in the feet and ankles.
- Treat yourself to a massage to relax you and your blood vessels. Your masseuse will push and pull the muscles , relaxing taut muscles, allowing them to release lactic acid. If you tell your massage therapist about your MS, a tailored massage will be provided. You could also invest in a basic foam roller for a DIY treatment.
- Quit smoking because nicotine damages the walls of your arteries and thickens the blood, restricting blood flow.
- Drink lots of water to maintain blood volume. Adequate hydration is essential for good circulation. You should avoid alcohol and caffeine as both will dehydrate.
- Wearing compression socks puts pressure on the legs, preventing blood from collecting. You may need your compression socks to be fitted by your healthcare team, to ensure the correct level of compression for you.
- Luxuriate in a warm bath to allow the heat to relax your arteries and veins which will cause them to expand easing the flow of blood.
- Sip a warm mug of tea. A warm drink can be as effective as a warm bath. Additionally, both black tea and green tea contain antioxidants that benefit cardiovascular health.
- Exercise your body to get you heart pumping and your blood flowing. If you have limited mobility, you may be stuck with sedentary exercises. All forms of exercise are beneficial for your circulation.
Multiple Sclerosis Synopsis
While we have established that multiple sclerosis does not directly cause poor circulation, many of the symptoms are not conducive to good circulation.
MS is a neurodegenerative and inflammatory condition of the immune system. The disease breaks down the protective sheath (myelin) that surrounds the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal column.
This makes the nerve control signals from the brain to the body difficult. The outcome of these nerve signals being disrupted or blocked are unpredictable skeletomuscular or digestive symptoms.
Vision and Hearing Loss
While visual problems are often one of the first symptoms of multiple sclerosis, loss of, or degraded, hearing are much less common.
Speaking, swallowing and breathing difficulties
Speech problems are very common with up to 40% of MSers experiencing articulations problems.
Breathing difficulties may be due to muscle weakness in the chest. And poor respiraion can cause low oxygen levels which will compound and fatigue problems.
Swallowing incorrectly can be much more than just an awkward impediment. Problems with swallowing can lead to choking which has the potential to be fatal.
Furthermore, incorrect swallowing can cause food to be inhaled and food in the lungs can cause pneumonia.
Muscle weakness and Balance Issues
The nerve control functions involved in walking, hand-eye coordination and balance are incredibly complicated. It is not just the nerve signals which control muscles, but the bio-feedback or proprioception that provides our spatial awareness that can be disrupted.
MSers are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis or brittle bones. Paradoxically, this is not because of MS, itself, but from the pharmaceuticals used to try and control the symptoms.
A deficiency in vitamin D has long been recognised as a possible causal factor in developing MS.
Furthermore, vitamin D is essential to healthy bone development.
Bladder and bowel problems are very common in MSers. Laxatives and self-catheterisation can be used to ease these difficulties.
Smooth Muscle function could be an added consideration although it is not thought that the autonomic nervous system is impacted by multiple sclerosis.
Multiple Sclerosis does not directly affect the reproductive system or fertility.
However, sexual dysfunction, such as difficulty experiencing arousal or orgasm, is common in people with MS. Erectile dysfunction is very common in men with MS.
Fatigue, pain, and other MS symptoms can make sexual intimacy awkward or unappealing.
MS and poor circulation MS Wellness
8 Natural Circulation Boosters MS Magazine
Symptoms and causes of poor circulation Healthline
The effects of Multiple Sclerosis on the Body Healthline
Chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI) MS Society
What is CCSVI? Healthline
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