Circulation to your legs keeps them healthy and alive!
Without efficient blood flow throughout the body, your legs and especially your feet may suffer problems. Your feet are like the leaves on a tree! Think of what happens if that tree doesn’t get enough water.
Poor circulation is known as PAD or Peripheral Arterial disease and means your legs and feet may not be getting enough blood flow. So, how many people have this? “Approximately 8.5 million people in the United States have PAD, including 12-20% of individuals older than age 60.” And if you smoke this risk is up to six (6) times higher. AND…If you have diabetes and smoke, then it is much higher that that. So, we are here to help you save your legs!
It is very important to understand poor circulation is not usually painful. 40% of patients have NO symptoms. It only becomes painful when it is so critically severe to point of possible death of tissue (gangrene). Poor circulation usually doesn’t hurt. This is why it is so important to do a simple test to check it. Feeling for pulses in the feet can be misleading.* (Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 1992 May; 74(3): 169–171.)
So how does Dr. Elenburg check it? First we feel for the pulses and assess the patient. If there are any concerns, then he may offer you the option to do an ultrasound, which is commonly refered to as a doppler. This gives us a picture and we can measure the blood flow. The same technology is used to look at babies before they are born. It is safe, easy, and painless.
At the Foot & Ankle Center of Oklahoma, we make circulatory testing and evaluation easy and convenient part of your exam— you won’t find these types of resources in your average podiatry office. We have a state of the art office that includes vascular testing using an arterial doppler.
What is even better? Almost every insurance covers this test.
One simple test could save you a lot of problems down the road. It may even save your life.
Symptoms and Complications of Poor Circulation
Poor circulation to the feet and legs can produce intermittent, painful cramps throughout the hips, thighs, and calves—especially when walking. This is called claudication.
Other possible direct symptoms include swelling of the feet and ankles, skin discoloration, cold or numb skin, weak pulse in the legs, slow hair and toenail growth, and general fatigue.
That said, in the early and even middle stages, poor circulation may not produce noticeable symptoms.
While that sounds like good news, it’s actually very dangerous because you could have this problem but not really know how severe it is.
Common poor circulation problems include:
- Poor healing of foot problems. Even skin conditions such as corns and calluses are worse when the circulation is poor.
- Nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy. Nerves that don’t get the nutrients they need can become damaged and lose their ability to send and receive signals to the brain.
- Foot ulcers. The combination of neuropathy and poor circulation greatly increases the risk of developing non-healing or slow-healing foot wounds. Those that get infected may pose serious health risks, or even need to be amputated. This is especially problematic for diabetics.
- Falls. Your muscles use blood and oxygen. As we get older and less active the circulation worsens and this may lead to weak muscles. Weakness leads to falls.
- Persistent health issues. A common reason patients cannot always heal a problem is poor circulation. When there is an infection or injury, if the body cannot be healed, then sometimes parts have to be removed.
Causes of Poor Circulation
Circulation, especially to the feet and legs, can decrease for many different reasons. Some of the most common include:
- Smoking. Tobacco use is the number one preventable health issue that causes poor circulation.
- Diabetes. High blood sugar levels cause inflammation through the body. This also causes the blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow.
- Lack of physical activity. If you are not actively exercising, then your circulation gets worse faster.
- Kidney disease. Poor kidney function affects many things, but the feet really take a beating if your kidneys aren’t functioning well.
- Aging. Circulation generally declines with age (especially after turning 50), even in healthy individuals. The heart gets thicker and more rigid, and can’t pump as much blood with each beat as before.
- Genetics. A family history of peripheral artery disease, heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular disease is linked with a greater risk of circulatory problem.
Testing Your Circulatory Health Is Simple, Quick, and Covered by Insurance
Because circulatory problems are common in middle aged and older adults—even healthy ones—we incorporate circulatory testing using our advanced in-office diagnostic tools into our routine exams.
The testing is covered by insurance, painless, non-invasive, and takes just a few moments.
Comprehensive Care for Circulatory Health
Once we detect the signs of poor circulation or diagnose any specific conditions, we can then help you build a comprehensive treatment plan.
In most cases you can improve blood flow, or at least slow or stop the progression of damage—but it’s extremely important to take action as early as possible.
Healthy lifestyle changes are an important factor in almost any comprehensive treatment approach. Eating right, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling underlying causes (such as blood sugar / diabetes) are critical.
Beyond that, our office may provide medical treatment options depending on the nature and severity of your circulatory conditions. This includes everything from medications to compression stockings to physical therapy exercises to surgery.
Let the team at Foot & Ankle Center of Oklahoma help you keep the blood flowing to your feet and ankles! To schedule an appointment with us, either in Oklahoma City or at our satellite clinic in Moore, please call (405) 418-2676.
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