Unassuming foot conditions like skin discoloration, yellow or thickened toenails can be cause for concern if a person also has peripheral artery disease (PAD).
PAD restricts blood flow within the arteries located in your legs, which then causes limited blood flood to the feet and legs. As a result, minor cuts and blisters may take longer to heal or to become worse over time.
A sensation of coldness or numbness in the feet and/or toes is a sign that there may be decreased blood flow down the legs. The lack of appropriate circulation in the legs and feet is what causes the temperature to drop, thus, causing this area to be colder than the rest of the body.
Poor circulation is incredibly dangerous and a serious symptom that should never be ignored.
Peripheral Artery Disease and Diabetes
If you have PAD in addition to diabetes, you are at an even greater risk of developing significant problems with your feet and toes. High blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage (also known as diabetic neuropathy), which can lead to the loss of feeling in your feet. Neuropathy along with limited blood flow to the feet can prevent the sensation of pain and thus contribute to the severity of PAD because you are less likely to realize when symptoms worsen or the disease progresses.
In the early stages of PAD, most people do not experience any symptoms. But, by the time symptoms do appear, the arteries are already blocked, leading to significant issues.
Foot injuries like scratches or blisters can lead to sores, which if left untreated, can lead to infection. Advanced infection can lead to amputation of the toe(s), feet, and legs.
PAD and diabetes are the leading causes of leg and/or foot amputation in the U.S.
If you have PAD and/or diabetes it’s important that you have a daily routine to care for your feet. Having healthy feet will greatly reduce the risk of complication and infection.
Daily Foot Care Guidelines:
- Wash your feet every day. Wash with warm water and a mild cleanser. Dry your feet and in between the toes.
- Keep your skin soft. Use a lotion that does not contain alcohol, as this can dry out the skin. Apply a thin layer of lotion to your feet daily.
- Prevent ingrown toenails. To prevent ingrown toenails, make sure that you are trimming them If you have thick or brittle toenails, it is best to see a health care provider who can trim your toenails.
- Check your feet daily. Examine the entire surface of your feet, including the top, sides, bottom, and in between the toes. Check for any redness, scratches, rashes, blisters, cuts, sores, calluses, and swelling. If any areas are tender, painful or appear infected, consult your doctor right away.
- Wear shoes and socks. It’s important not to walk bare foot, even if you are indoors. Choose seamless or soft seamed socks and shoes that fit well, feel comfortable, and protect your feet. Before putting on your shoes, check to make sure that there is nothing inside the shoe and that the lining inside is smooth and free of wrinkles.
- Make sure your shoes keep your feet safe. Ask an expert to help you select the correct shoe size. If your shoes are new, only wear them for a few hours at a time before changing into other shoes, as this will aide in preventing blisters. If you are required to wear special inserts, make sure you accommodate for the length and width of the insert when choosing your shoes. Pedorthists are health care providers that specialize in the fabrication of shoe inserts and shoe fittings. Ask your insurance carrier if you have for benefits to cover the cost of shoe inserts or even for specialized shoes.
- Protect your feet from hot or cold temperatures. It is important to protect your feet from getting too cold or too hot. You can do so by wearing socks at night or shoes when the pavement is hot. When taking a bath, check the temperature of the water with your hand to ensure that the water is not too hot.
- Maintain blood flow in your feet. When sitting, elevate your feet as much as possible and limit the amount of time your legs are crossed.
- Remain active. Walking and biking are some low impact activities that help maintain an active lifestyle. Remember to wear supportive shoes and always warm up and cool down following exercise. Consult your health care provider for activities that are best for you.
Finally, schedule regular foot exams.
At each doctor’s visit, remember to ask your doctor to examine your feet. If you have diabetes, a yearly foot exam is very important and if you are already experiencing difficulties with your feet, exams should occur much more frequently.
Alabama Vascular and Lymphatic Specialists provides the most comprehensive, progressive, and personal care available for peripheral artery disease in the Birmingham, Alabama area.
During your visit our specialist(s) will review your medical history and develop a treatment plan to get you on the path to better health.
Call us today at (205) 209-3584 or click here to send us an email.