Poor Circulation—Diabetes’ Danger to the Feet

Our circulatory system covers a lot of ground. If our vast network of veins, arteries, and tiny capillaries were straightened and laid end to end, it would stretch more than 60,000 miles! When blood is pumped from the heart to our extremities, it can be considered quite the journey there and back. This can be especially true for blood traveling to our feet, which has both distance and gravity to deal with. When complications from diabetes result in poor circulation, your feet can suffer from a reduced ability to heal and stop infections. When combined with other effects of the disease, a recipe for dangerous and even life-threatening situations can arise.

Blood Circulation in DiabeticsA Narrowed Path

The effects of diabetes in one’s bloodstream can be especially tough on circulation. Decreased blood flow can occur as sugar-based compounds build up on the walls of smaller vessels and excess fat and plaque stick to the walls of larger vessels in your legs (sometimes known as peripheral arterial disease, or PAD). If buildups didn’t cause enough constriction already, blood vessel walls can also become inflamed and narrow passages even further.

On Trail to Trouble

Poor circulation can cause a variety of problems in the legs and feet. If your lower limbs do not receive enough blood flow when walking fast or up a hill, it can result in a painful condition called intermittent claudication. Resting for a bit will relieve the discomfort, but this is a good sign that something can be wrong with your blood flow.

Additional symptoms can combine with the effects of poor circulation to create serious complications. While reduced blood flow can already inhibit the foot’s ability to heal from injury, diabetic symptoms can also result in nerve damage that deadens the pain or sensation when an injury happens. If a cut or sore is left undetected, it can become infected or develop into an ulcer. In severe cases, the foot may need to be amputated.

The Road to Maintaining Wellness

Luckily, there are actions you can take to reduce the risks and symptoms associated with restricted circulation in feet. One of the most important factors is to quit smoking if you haven’t already. Smoking further narrows your blood vessels and greatly increases the risks of resulting problems. According to the American Diabetes Association, many of those with diabetes who end up needing amputations also smoked.

It may seem ironic, but the best way to deal with intermittent claudication is to increase your walking and exercise rates to improve blood flow in your legs and feet. Consult Dr. Cynthia Olberholtzer-Classen and the staff at Podiatry Associates, P.C. for help organizing a program that would be safest and most effective for your needs and foot conditions. The correct footwear for exercise will also prove invaluable in keeping you motivated and preventing injury.

In addition to properly managing your diabetes and keeping your cholesterol at healthy levels, other measures can be taken to maintain good circulation and foot health. We can help you keep regular watch of your feet for signs of developing problems, as well as provide custom orthotics and advice to help prevent the development of sores or discomfort. Schedule an appointment with one of our locations in Castle Pines or Parker calling (303) 805-5156.

Photo Credit: cooldesign via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen, DPM
Founder and Owner of Podiatry Associates, PC