December Articles 2014

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Poor Blood Circulation in the Feet

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is often caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is usually the result of a build up of plaque in the arteries. Plaque build up, or atherosclerosis, can be the result of excess calcium and cholesterol in the bloodstream, which restricts how much blood can flow through arteries. Reduced blood flow to a certain area of the body severely limits the amount of oxygen and nutrients that part of the body receives, causing degeneration in the muscles and other tissues. Sometimes, poor blood circulation in the feet and legs can be caused by other conditions, such as damage to or inflammation of blood vessels, known as vasculitis.


The lack of oxygen and nutrients caused by poor blood circulation can restrict muscle growth and development, as well as cause muscle pain and cramps, weakness, and stiffness. Other common symptoms include numbness in the legs and feet, skin discoloration in the affected limbs, slower nail and hair growth, and erectile dysfunction in men. In more severe cases of PAD, pain can be present even when a person isn't exercising, and may range from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating.

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is more common in those who are overweight or obese, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, who smoke, or who have a family history of PAD or related conditions (heart attack, stroke, etc.). Diabetes and smoking place a person at greatest risk for developing poor blood circulation, although advanced age (over 50) can also increase risk.

If you are experiencing poor blood circulation in the feet and legs caused by PAD, it is important to make changes to your lifestyle in order to reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke caused by this condition. If you smoke, quit completely -- this will increase the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Exercising and reducing the saturated fats in your diet (which come from fatty meats, fried foods, whole milk, etc.) can make a difference in improving blood circulation in feet. It is also important to avoid developing influenza and to carefully control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.

Your doctor may recommend combining lifestyle changes with a prescription medication regimen to improve blood circulation. The most commonly-used medications for PAD are called statins and work by blocking the amount of enzymes in your body that produce cholesterol. They are known by the brand names Zocor, Lipitor, Crestor, and others.



Systemic Diseases of the Foot

There are several systemic diseases, or diseases that affect the whole body, that either display symptoms in the feet or affect the health of the feet. Common systemic diseases that affect the overall health of the feet, and the patient’s ability to walk comfortably, include gout, diabetes mellitus, neurological disorders, and arthritis.


In gout, which is caused by an excessive buildup of uric acid in the body, the most common symptoms of pain, inflammation, and redness occur at the metatarsal/phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe. Any excess levels of uric acid, crystallize and are deposited in tendons, joints, and surrounding bone and muscle tissue. Gout is commonly treated with NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation and other drugs to lower uric acid levels in the body. Gout most commonly affects those who are overweight, have low protein diets and lead a more sedentary lifestyle.

Diabetes mellitus is an increase in the level of blood sugar in which the body cannot counteract with naturally occurring insulin in the body. The three types of diabetes, Type I, Type II and Gestational Diabetes, are all signs the body is either not producing enough insulin or is not efficiently using the insulin that is produced. Gestational diabetes only affects women who are pregnant and have never, prior to pregnancy, exhibited symptoms of the disease.

There are two main issues that affect the feet that are commonly caused by diabetes. They include diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to damaged nerves and affect the feet through numbness and loss of sensation. Peripheral vascular disease restricts the flow of blood to the foot and can, in extreme cases, lead to the necessity of amputating the foot. Peripheral issues that are caused by diabetes and can affect the foot include athlete’s foot, nail infections, corns, blisters, bunions, severe dry skin, plantar warts and ingrown toenails. These can all be attributed to the decrease of blood flow to the foot.

Neurological disorders and rheumatoid arthritis can also have severe impact on the health of the feet. Neurological disorders can affect the nerves in the main structure of the foot and cause loss of sensation and possible decreased muscle response. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the bones and joint structures of the foot, making it impossible to walk normally without serious pain.

All systemic diseases that affect the foot can effectively be treated to minimize joint and muscle damage if they are diagnosed early and treated with medication and lifestyle therapy. Diabetes patients must monitor their blood sugar levels and work with their physician to keep their levels as close to normal as possible. Rheumatoid arthritis patients should work with their physician to ensure the proper medications are being taken to reduce the amount of damage to the joints of the body.

 

Corns: What Are They, and How Do You Get Rid of Them

Corns are areas of the skin where it has thickened to the point of being irritating and sometimes painful. Corns are circular or cone-shaped and are commonly found on the feet where there are areas of pressure or friction, such as on the little toe where it may rub against shoes or on the ball of the foot. The medical term for corns is helomas.

Corns can easily be confused with a callus, but there is a difference between the two. Corns can be a raised bump that feels hard to the touch and painful. They consist of a thick, rough area of skin that may be dry and waxy. Corns tend to be surrounded by inflamed skin and are usually smaller than calluses.

The key to treating a corn is to remove the dead skin that has built up. Salicylic acid is the most common medication used to accomplish this. Salicylic acid works by dissolving keratin, the protein that makes up the majority of corns. You can purchase salicylic acid over-the-counter in the form of wart removers. It comes in medicated pads, drops or creams. People with diabetes should not use salicylic acid, but should immediately consult their doctor.

To treat corns, apply the medication directly onto the corns according to the product directions. The top layer of the corn will turn a white color. When that happens, the layers of skin can then be peeled away, making the corn smaller. It is never a good idea to try and shave off corns with razors or other pedicure equipment. This can lead to infection. If your corns get infected or do not respond to over the counter treatment, a visit to the doctor is necessary.

Orthotic inserts fitted by a podiatrist also help to treat corns and help prevent their return. Inserts fit into shoes and help to adjust the way your foot fits in your shoe, thus fixing the way you walk. This will reduce friction, lowering your chances of getting a corn and eliminating the pain for current corns.

Surgery is seldom an option for corns, but does occur on rare occasions. Surgery for corns actually deals with the underlying issue causing the corns. During surgery, the bone is shaved and any abnormalities are corrected to reduce the amount of friction that occurs during walking.

The first step to preventing corns is to reduce any possible friction. Wear well fitting shoes that don’t rub on your feet. If you notice rubbing developing, pads can be purchased to help reduce the friction. These can be purchased over the counter and are simply placed on the area that is being irritated. Friction can also be reduced by using cushioned insoles in your shoes, and making sure to wear well-fitting shoes. This will make sure your foot is not being squeezed awkwardly, and stop corns from forming in the first place.

 

Flat Feet

Flat feet is a foot condition in which the arch of the foot either drops or is never developed. While it is common in babies and small children, it can become a problem if the arch never develops. For adults, the development of flat feet can be brought upon by injury, or may even be a result of pregnancy due to the increased elasticity; however, in adults the flat footedness is usually permanent.

The wet footprint test can be an indicator to diagnosing flat feet. In this test, the individual would place a flat foot on a surface in order to show a footprint. If there is no indentation or indication of an arch, that person may have flat feet. In all cases, it is best to consult a podiatrist if flat feet is suspected or noticed.

Once flat feet has been diagnosed, it can be treated by walking barefoot in beach-like terrain, or wearing insoles. There are two types of flat feet; one being rigid, where the feet appear to have no arch even when the person is not standing, and the other being flexible where the person appears to have an arch while not standing, but once standing the arch goes away. In the case of flexible flat feet, unless there is pain caused by the condition, there is no need for treatment. However, if it causes pain or in the case of rigid flat feet, exercises and orthotic insoles may be prescribed in order to help the arches develop.

In some cases when the condition is severe and all other methods have been exhausted surgery may be required but this is normally avoided due to a lengthy recovery time and high cost.

 

Sever's Disease

Sever's disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a medical condition that causes heel pain in one or both feet of children during the period when their feet are growing. Sever's disease occurs most commonly in boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 14 years of age.

Sever's disease occurs when the part of the child's heel known as the growth plate, or the calcaneal epiphysis, an area attached to the Achilles tendon, suffers an injury or when the muscles and tendons of the growing foot do not keep pace with bone growth. The result is constant pain experienced at the back of the heel and the inability to put any weight on the heel, forcing the child to bear weight on their toes while walking. A toe gait develops in which the child must change the way they walk to avoid placing weight on the painful heel, a position that can lead to other developmental problems.

The most common symptom of Sever's disease is acute pain felt in the heel when a child engages in physical activity such as walking, jumping or running. Children who are very active athletes are among the group most susceptible to experiencing Sever's disease because of the extreme stress and tension they place on their growing feet. Improper pronation, the rolling movement of the foot during walking or running, and obesity are all additional conditions linked to causing Sever's disease.

The first step in treating Sever's disease is to rest the foot and leg and avoid sports activity which only worsens the problem. Over the counter pain medications targeted at relieving inflammation can be helpful for reducing the amount of heel pain. Combined with rest and pain medication, a child with Sever's disease should wear shoes that properly support the heel and the arch of the foot. Consider purchasing orthotic shoe inserts which can help support the heel and foot while it is healing. Most patients with Sever's disease symptoms report an eventual elimination of heel pain after wearing orthotic insoles that support the affected heel.

Sever's disease may affect just one heel of either foot as well as the heels of both feet. It is important to have a child experiencing heel pain get an examination by a foot doctor who can apply the squeeze test, which compresses both sides of the heel in order to determine if there is intense pain. Discourage any child diagnosed with Sever's disease from going barefoot as this can intensify the problem. Apply ice packs to the affected painful heel two or three times a day for pain relief.

Exercises that help to stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever's disease. An exercise known as foot curling, in which the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body in order to help stretch the muscles, has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever's disease. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions, and repeated several times throughout the day.

Treatment methods should usually continue for at least 2 weeks and as long as 2 months before the heel pain goes completely away and the child can resume normal physical and athletic activities again. A child can continue doing daily stretching exercises for the legs and feet to prevent the heel pain of Sever's disease from returning.

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