Podiatrist in San Leandro, CA
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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.


Nerve Disorders Which Effect the Foot and Ankle

The reasons behind a patient contracting a nerve disorders are myriad; from genetics to something not as complex—like stress. The disorders in feet are often overlooked—but shouldn’t be—as these conditions if serious enough, can immobilize a patient.

The most common nerve disorders in feet are similar in nature to their well-known counterpart, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, they are; Interdigitial Neuroma and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. The latter syndrome, is less common than the former, but is very similar to Carpal Tunnel. Compression of the nerves, often seen in those with excessive pronation (whether by flatfeet or valgus heel positions), can cause patients to report a wide variety of symptoms. Moderate to severe pains in the ankle, starting along the bottom of the foot and ranging up into the calf, are fairly typical—though it is not unheard of in severe cases to experience partial numbness or atrophy of the foot and muscle surrounding it. If the facility treating the patient, and the doctors themselves, believe that the patient has Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, they test using an EMG to provide positive diagnosis. If positive, MRI’s identify the level of pinching in the nerves. Treatment follows with NSAIDS, functional orthotics, and mandated rest of the affected feet. If the situation is rather more serious, surgery may be required.

Those with Interdigitial Neuroma have a somewhat different condition. I.N. is characterized by a inflammation in the frontal area of the foot, the nerves that control toe sensitivity. It is very rare that the inflammation is present in any other area besides the second or third interspace—and should it spread past that, the digits should be checked against other disorders. Frequent reported symptoms of I.N. include; chronic burning and tingling sensations between toes (which may or may not spread to the actual toes themselves). The symptoms are elevated by high-impact activities such as walking, running, or shoes that induce compression (i.e. heels or toe shoes). Consult a doctor if pain becomes chronic or you experience worsening symptoms. In these case, radiographs, MRI’s, and even bone scans are used to determine the presence of the condition in the affected areas and are generally typical for an examination.

In the case of bone scans, they are only required if bone degeneration is suspected. Surgery, in other cases, is infrequently required in the alleviation of symptoms and is only recommended for those who suffer consistent symptoms for a period longer than six months. Reporting symptoms becomes crucial in these cases. Generally, orthotics is the go-to measure for alleviating pressure and stress from consistent weight on toes.



Getting Back into Sports after Foot and Ankle Injuries

One of the most common injuries that athletes suffer from is a sprained ankle, a very painful and frustrating problem. A sprained ankle usually causes one to avoid participating in sports, and once someone has sprained their ankle, they are very likely to sprain it again.

To get back into sports after a sprained ankle, one should follow the RICE method, which is consistently recommended by physical therapists and sports medicine doctors. The RICE method involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If one follows the RICE method soon after experiencing a sprained ankle, he or she will likely get back to the playing fields in no time. In addition to using the RICE method, an athlete should wear an ankle brace after experiencing a sprained ankle to help alleviate the pain and keep the ankle safe until it heels. A brace will also help to stabilize the ankle, and prevent serious injuries in the future. Many times, people suffer from sprained ankles due to weak ligaments near the ankle; because an ankle brace keeps the ligaments in the foot from moving too much, it will help someone avoid this injury.

Fractures in the foot and ankle are another common type of injury athletes suffer. Stress fractures typically occur in the bones of the forefoot. An athlete will usually experience stress fractures if he or she partakes in a sudden increase in athletic training. A stress fracture can be either stable or displaced. A stable stress fracture involves no shift in bone alignment, while a displaced stress fracture involves bone ends that no longer line up.

After an athlete has a stress fracture in the foot, he or she will immediately need to see a doctor. Rest is usually the key to treat this problem. One will have to refrain from any strenuous activities or the sports that caused the injury. A doctor or specialist may be able to pinpoint the specific part of an athlete's training that caused the stress fracture. If this is possible, then an athlete will not have to worry about refraining from his or her sport in the future; he or she will simply have to stop training in such a way that an ankle or foot injury results.

The key for any athlete is to care about the treatment process for an ankle or foot injury. Athletes need to rest and take time before hitting the fields. The more an athlete invests in the treatment and recovery process, the more likely he or she will be able to return back to normal athletic performance.


Diabetic Foot Care

Diabetes affects millions of people each year. Diabetes damages blood vessels in all parts of the body, including the feet. The legs and feet may have slow blood flow which causes neuropathy (nerve damage). Once a diabetic patient develops neuropathy, it is imperative that the feet are well taken care of to avoid amputation of the feet or legs.

It is important when caring for the feet of diabetics to always wash and thoroughly dry the feet, especially between the toes. Next, examine your feet and toes for any redness or sores that may be there, even if you do not feel any pain. You may also use a mirror to examine your feet from the bottom side. Avoid wearing colored socks to prevent infections that may occur from the dye used in them. Well-fitting socks are also highly recommended.

Anyone with diabetes should have their physicians to monitor Hemoglobin A1C levels as this test lets the physician know how well the blood sugar levels have been controlled during the past 3 months. It is very important to keep the blood sugar levels in the normal range (70-110mg/dl). There are medications that a physician may prescribe to help with neuropathy of the diabetic patient. It is also advisable to visit a podiatrist if the diabetic patient is experiencing any conditions involving the feet. Toe nails may need to be taken care of by a podiatrist as some patients may cut to deep or not deep enough around the cuticles and risk having an infection that could occur.

While at home a person can take care of their feet if they follow instructions given by their physician or nurse. An effective treatment is using creams and applying them to the heels due to the possibility of extreme dryness. Be careful when using tools to remove the calluses as severe diabetics may not be able to feel pain, and this can cause a severe wound to develop.

Diabetic feet absolutely need to be inspected on a daily basis. Always notify your health care professional with any concerns that you may have about the care of your feet. Waiting to see if a wound will get better is not a good idea as it can turn into a life threatening condition. Gangrene is a serious problem for diabetics and can lead to sepsis and amputation. Early treatment and daily inspection of the diabetic feet are keys to staying healthy.



Dealing with Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle

Stress fractures in the foot and ankle happen when muscles become weak due to too much or too little use. Stress fractures cause the muscles to stop cushioning the foot and ankles from the impact of hitting the ground. Since there is nothing to protect the bones of the foot, they absorb the full impact of each step you take. This additional stress causes little cracks, or stress fractures, to form in the bones that are being pressured.

Stress fractures are common in highly active people, especially athletes. Basketball, tennis or and gymnastics are activities where stress fractures occur more frequently. However, anyone can receive a stress fracture. Normally sedentary individuals who suddenly begin an intensive high impact work out may incur a stress fracture. This is because their muscles are not resistant enough to handle and cushion the intensity of the activity. Osteoporosis patients may also suffer stress fractures because the disease weakens the victim’s bones, making it easier for them to wear and tear.

Pain from stress fractures occurs in the site area of the fracture. It may be either constant or intermittent, causing sharp or dull pain accompanied by swelling and/or tenderness. Engagement in any kind of high impact activity will only exacerbate the pain. In fact, it can even cause a full fracture, especially when the area is not fully healed. Full fractures are much more serious, and can prevent you from using your foot at all.

Treatment varies depending on the patient and the degree of his or her injury. The most important treatment is to rest the injured foot. Some fractures may heal quicker with brief rest, while others need a longer rest period and utilizing crutches. In some cases surgery is required to install support pins around the fracture to aid healing.

To prevent stress fractures, be sure to get plenty of Calcium and Vitamin-D in your diet. This helps keep your bones strong and fortifies their resistance. If you begin a new regimen that involves high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up the proper muscular strength. For example, if you wish to walk every day, you could ride a bike on some of those days to take stress off your feet. Also, make sure to wear supportive shoes that provide adequate protection.

If you experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If these symptoms do not go relieve themselves, consult with an orthopedic specialist. Taking these measures can help prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue the activities  you enjoy.

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