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.
The Importance of Proper Foot Support
Feet are the foundation of the body, and just like the foundation of any structure, they must be stable and balanced in order to support the all of the body's weight. If they are not, they could cause many problems.
Bad foot support can cause pain or discomfort in the lower back, hips, knees, neck, and shoulder. It can lead to much less obvious problems as well, like stomach aches and headaches. Issues with the feet can lead to emotional stress and physiological changes in the body, including fatigue, blood sugar problems, and adrenal stress. In order to avoid these issues, you must be sure to wear shoes that provide proper foot support.
Of all the different parts of the foot, the arch is the one that needs the most support. This vital structure handles most of the pressure exerted during movement--for each mile someone walks, the arch bears between 200,000 and 300,000 pounds of stress. Arch height varies greatly from one person to another, and changes as a person ages. Proper support can prevent many musculoskeletal problems that may cause inactivity or even disability.
When searching for footwear, one must remember to buy shoes that fit well and that properly support the feet. Otherwise, you could suffer from a slew of foot-related problems. If, for example, you buy shoes that are too tight, you could hinder the support mechanism in the foot that keeps the body standing upright. If this mechanism is not working correctly, you will soon begin to slouch when standing. This quickly causes discomfort throughout the entire body, especially the back, and if it is not corrected it may cause permanent posture issues and bone deformation.
When shopping for shoes, only buy those that provide good heel and arch support. Both the heel and arch areas need to be firm, but still flexible enough for walking. Also make sure the shoes you intend to buy are the proper length and width for your feet. Your feet and toes should not feel squished or cramped in the shoe, or (if it is an open-toed shoe) be hanging over its sides. Additionally, if you are looking for a laced shoe, be sure to buy one that has many eyelets. Laces help the shoes form to the feet, and having many eyelets allows the laces to better conform to your foot. Also make sure that the laces are tied correctly, as laces that are not pulled tightly and tied do not provide proper support.
Good foot health is vital to overall body health. If you do not care for your feet properly, you could suffer many short and long-term problems that will negatively affect your entire body. Wearing shoes that provide good foot support is an easy way to avoid these problems, and live comfortably.
How Obesity Affects Your Feet
Maybe you have gained a few extra pounds over the past couple of years. It comes on slowly and you are not always aware of it until your feet start hurting at the end of the day. After all, they carry the weight of your whole body. Experiencing foot pain and swelling is one of the biggest side effects of being overweight.
Many problems that occur in the feet are directly related to carrying even a small amount of extra weight. If you are overweight, the body may try to compensate by changing the way it moves. You may lean forward a bit and put extra weight on the wrong part of the foot. Your feet were designed to carry a normal amount of body weight and any extra will put undue stress on them.
Many people who are overweight as adults develop type 2 diabetes and it is often the cause of leg and foot pain. This is very serious and often older people who do not control their condition may lose all feeling in their legs and feet. It is also possible to develop small sores on the feet, and when you have diabetes, these do not always heal properly which can lead to serious infection.
The extra pressure and stress placed on muscles, joints, and tendons in the feet by extra body weight can also trigger plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the foot, and causes pain and stiffness when walking and climbing stairs. Pain caused by plantar fasciitis can be relieved by foot stretches and orthotics inserted into the shoe.
Foot problems triggered by excess body weight may be treated by special attention to footwear. Shoes that properly support the foot – especially the arch and ankle – and allow for good circulation are very important. A podiatrist can help you decide what kind of shoe is best for your feet. Orthotics – special inserts that can be inserted into shoes – can absorb shock, support the arches, and keep the feet properly aligned. These can be found in shoe stores or may be fitted by a podiatrist.
It may also be time to consider taking off a few pounds to prevent diabetes and other life threatening diseases. Your feet will certainly thank you for it and you will feel better in a short amount of time. A water aerobics class at a local gym is a way to get needed exercise without putting any stress on the feet or ankles. Yoga is also an activity that is beneficial both to your feet and your entire body. Don't risk losing your freedom by ignoring foot pain. If you take care of your feet, you can keep your feet and your entire body feeling great.
Dealing with Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle
Stress fractures occur in the foot and ankle when muscles in those areas are weakened from too much or too little use. When this happens, they stop cushioning the foot and ankles from the impact of hitting the ground. Because there is nothing to protect them, the bones of the foot begin to absorb the full impact of each step someone takes. The added stress causes little cracks to form in the bones that are under the most pressure. These cracks are called stress fractures.
Stress fractures are common for individuals whose daily activities cause high levels of impact on their feet and ankles. Individuals who run, play tennis or basketball, or practice gymnastics tend to experience these fractures more frequently. Anyone is susceptible to this problem, though. Individuals who are normally sedentary and suddenly begin an intensive high impact work out may get stress fractures. This is because their muscles are not strong enough to handle and cushion the intensity of their activity. Osteoporosis may also cause someone to get stress fractures, because the disease weakens an afflicted person's bones and makes it easier for them to break down.
The pain from these fractures will occur in the general area of the fracture. It may be intermittent or constant, and will cause sharp or dull pain along with swelling and tenderness. Engaging in any kind of activity, high impact or otherwise, will aggravate the pain. If the intensity of the activity increases before the stress fracture has properly healed, it can cause a full fracture. This is a much more serious problem, and will probably prevent you from applying any pressure on the foot at all.
Treatment can vary depending on the individual and the degree of injury. The primary way to treat a stress fracture is to rest the hurt foot. Some fractures will heal quickly with only a little bit of rest, while others may require a long rest period and the use of crutches. Under certain circumstances, surgery may be required to install support pins around the fracture to assist in healing.
In order to avoid getting stress fractures, make sure to get plenty of calcium and Vitamin-D. They will help to keep your bones strong, and make them less likely to break under pressure. If your new exercise regimen is running or some other kind of high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up muscle strength. For example, if you plan to walk every day, you could ride a bike on some days to take the stress off of your feet. Make sure to wear supportive shoes to better protect you feet.
If you begin to experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If the symptoms do not go away, see an orthopedic specialist. Remembering these tips can help you prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue living normally.