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Poor Circulation (Peripheral Vascular Disease)

Information for health professionals

on peripheral vascular disease

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 artherosclerosis ("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. See cold feet).
* 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 (athersclerosis). 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 affect of poor circulation on the foot, is that its 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 (eg oxygen) that the bodies 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 breakdowns, 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 (eg 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 nail (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 toenail, 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 doctors advice (especially about exercise) and take advice from a Podiatrist about foot care and footwear fitting. Foot care for those with diabetes it is extremely important.

"I went to a Podiatrist and they cut me. I will never go back"
"That is unfortunate and can happen by accident on rare occasions as Podiatrists use sharp instruments to cut toenails and reduce corns and callus. It would not have happened deliberately. This has to be weighed against the high risk that you are at for the skin breaking down (sores developing) if professional care is not received."

Links of relevance to poor circulation (peripheral vascular disease):

Cold feet


Diabetes foot care

Find a Podiatrist

ePodiatry's resources on peripheral vascular disease

Books on foot care

Ask a question in the foot health forum about poor circulation


Buy footcare products:

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ePodiatry is purely a source of information on poor circulation to the foot (peripheral vascular disease) and should at no time be considered as replacing the expertise of a health professional. We recommend seeking professional advice for poor circulation to the foot (peripheral vascular disease) and any foot problem before embarking on any form of self treatment or management of poor circulation to the foot (peripheral vascular disease). Neither the content or any other service provided through ePodiatry is intended to be relied on for medical diagnosis or treatment. Do not delay in seeking health professional advice for poor circulation to the foot (peripheral vascular disease) any other foot problem because of something seen on ePodiatry.
©2003-2004. The information contained on this page about poor circulation to the foot (peripheral vascular disease) is subject to copyright. No part of the information about poor circulation to the foot (peripheral vascular disease) contained on this page be reproduced in any form without the permission of ePodiatry.

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