Learn About Vascular Foot Care
Overtime, fats, cholesterol, fibrin (the component that clots blood), platelets, and calcium are deposited in the walls of the peripheral arteries (outer regions away from your heart). These materials form plaque, that builds, narrows, and sometimes can block these arteries.
All About Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD)
As a result, Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) occurs, where the vessels that carry blood to the leg and arm muscles become deprived of necessary oxygen, due to the buildup and deposits of this fatty cholesterol plaque in the walls of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can affect the arteries in the heart, legs, brain, kidneys, and other organs.
Peripheral vascular disease and peripheral arterial disease are often used interchangeably. When this buildup of cholesterol plaques (Atherosclerosis) causes the artery walls to harden, and the outer channel of the artery, called the lumen containing vascular endothelium cells (line the entire circulatory system), becomes narrow or blocked, the results are peripheral vascular disease (PVD).
Dangers of PVD
PVD is dangerous because when these vessels that carry blood to your lower body become rigid, narrow, or blocked, this makes it harder for the blood to reach your legs, feet, or other parts of the body. This is why this disease is known as a blood circulation disorder.
People at Risk of PVD
According to research, PVD affects approximately ten million adults in the United States. Also, peripheral vascular disease is 20 times more common in people with diabetes than anyone else in the general population. Other risk factors include: hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, over age 50, obesity, smoking, and lack of exercise.
People with PVD do not usually have symptoms, unless they have a severe case. When mild atherosclerosis occurs, and the arteries have not really become narrow, symptoms are usually not present. This is typically why people with this disease are unaware that their arteries are gradually building up with plaque.
Symptoms of PVD Include:
- Cramping or tiredness in leg muscles (claudication), while participating in activities, but goes away when resting
- Pain in the legs or feet that stops you from sleeping
- Numbness or loss of sensation
- Sores or ulcers that heal slowly or fail to heal
- Problems with limbs in relation to color or temperature
- Slow hair and nail growth on affected body part
- Foot pain, even at rest
Atherosclerosis becomes more advanced as we age. As mentioned before, peripheral vascular disease is caused by severe narrowing of the arteries, therefore, severe atherosclerosis can result in tissue ischemia (lack of blood and oxygen to the tissues).
Other Dangers of Atherosclerosis
Arteries that are narrowed by advanced atherosclerosis can also cause diseases in different organs, such as the heart, kidneys, brain, and others. For example, advanced cases of atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries (arteries that supply blood to heart muscles) can lead to a heart attack. Advanced atherosclerosis of the carotid and cerebral arteries (arteries that supply blood to the brain) can lead to a stroke and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Advanced atherosclerosis in the lower extremities, commonly the legs, can lead to pain and cramping (claudication) while doing activities, such as walking or exercising, and most importantly ulcers.
In some people, the vascular system may compensate for the reduced blood flow by forming alternative routes called collateral vessels. Others who are not lucky and develop PVD, need to ask about treatment and ways to have a good vascular foot care regimen.
If PVD is Left Untreated
Peripheral vascular disease increases the risk of developing foot ulcers and contributes to poor healing. If PVD is left untreated, tissue on your limbs (foot and leg) may die, a condition called gangrene, which may lead to amputation.
Many patients with diabetes don’t realize just how much peripheral vascular disease (PVD) affects the circulation and nerves to areas of the body, most commonly their feet. Poor circulation often leads to being at risk for delayed healing, infections, ulcers, neuropathy, gangrene, and as a last resort amputation, among other complications.
It is much easier and preferable to prevent complications, by being checked out by your podiatrist, so they can implement a foot care plan.
Tips on How to Avoid PVD:
- Look at your feet daily for the development of blisters, cuts, scratches, ulcers.
- Wash your feet daily with warm water and soap.
- Dry your feet thoroughly, especially between toes.
- Apply a moisturizer after drying your feet, to avoid cracking and dryness
- Keep feet warm and dry.
- Wear comfortable, supportive, and properly fitting shows.
Find a Podiatrist in Central Maryland Today!
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Marc Lipton, our board-certified podiatrist at Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland, call (410) 644-1880 or request an appointment online.