Peripheral vascular disease is the medical name given to a group of problems that causes poor circulation to the feet and legs. The most common cause of this is atherosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries") in which there is a gradual thickening and hardening of the walls of the arteries (the blood vessels that bring blood to the extremities from the heart). Diabetes is the most common cause of peripheral vascular disease.
Symptoms of poor circulation:
The symptoms that are experienced can depend on which artery is affected and how much the blood flow is reduced.
Some of the symptoms include:
* Claudication (this is a dull cramping pain in the calf muscle that comes on after walking a certain distance - it is relieved by rest).
* Numbness or tingling in the foot, or toes can occur.
* Changes in the color of the skin (it becomes more pale, bluish, or reddish).
* Changes in skin temperature (the foot becomes cooler).
* Skin breakdowns, infection and sores do not heal as well as they should.
What causes poor circulation to the foot?
Poor circulation is most commonly caused by a progressive blocking of the arteries in the leg (atherosclerosis). Those with diabetes are more likely to develop poor circulation to the foot. Other risk factors for developing poor circulation include a lack of physical activity, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The effects of poor circulation (peripheral vascular disease) on the foot:
The biggest effect of poor circulation on the foot, is that if problems (such as sores, infections, cuts, etc.) develop, they do not heal as well as they should. In many cases they do not heal at all without special care. The reason for this is that the blood carries vital elements (e.g. oxygen) that the body’s tissues need for vitality and healing.
Treatment of poor circulation:
Poor circulation can be treated by your doctor or vascular surgeon in a number of ways:
* Good control of the blood glucose level is very important if diabetes is present.
* Other risk factors - such as lack of exercise; high blood pressure; smoking; and high cholesterol levels also need to be addressed.
* Drugs can be used to prevent the blood clotting (antiplatelet agents and anticoagulants).
* Angioplasty can be used to enlarge the narrowed peripheral arteries.
* A vein from another part of the body can be used to bypass the narrow or blocked artery can be used by the vascular surgeon.
Why foot care is important for those with poor circulation to the foot (peripheral vascular disease):
As the healing from skin breaks down, sores and cuts on the foot is poor due to the poor circulation, extra special care is needed to prevent problems from developing as well as care of any problems that develop.
This care includes:
* Preventing trauma and accidents (e.g. wearing shoes to prevent trauma)
* Wearing footwear that is well fitted and not causing any pressure areas.
* Seeking professional help from a podiatrist for the cutting of toe nails (any accidents from self-care here may prove to be costly).
* Corns and calluses need treatment. If they are allowed to progress, the skin may break down and sores may develop beneath them and prove difficult to heal.
Podiatric management of those with poor circulation to the foot (peripheral vascular disease):
Podiatric management of those with peripheral vascular disease (poor circulation) should include:
* A complete evaluation and assessment of the status of the circulation to the foot and communication to you about the risk that the foot is at for complications developing.
* Periodic reassessment of this status.
*Advice on foot care and fitting footwear.
*Care of toenails, corns, calluses and other foot conditions.
* Management of any wounds, sores, infections that may develop as the result of poor circulation.
Self-management for those with poor circulation to the foot (peripheral vascular disease):
There is a lot you can do to help yourself if you have poor circulation. Follow your doctor’s advice (especially about exercise, quit smoking) and take advice from a Podiatrist about foot care and footwear fitting. Foot care for those with diabetes it is extremely important!