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POOR BLOOD CIRCULATION – YOUR LEG PAIN COULD BE PERIPHERAL ARTERIAL DISEASE

by Dr. Eno on September 15, 2011

poor circulation

 

Hello and welcome back to another edition of Powerful Living Diabetes.

A lot of times during the course of taking care of patients with diabetes type 2, the discussion wanders casually to ‘poor circulation’.

It may go something like; ‘You know I always have poor circulation in my feet’.

Well here is what you need to know. Poor circulation is not normal. Poor circulation may be a sign of a more serious condition called peripheral arterial disease.

What are some factors that put a person at risk of developing peripheral arterial disease?

 Cigarette smoking. In one study people who smoked had an increased risk of:

  • Diabetes type 2 especially in those over the age of 50
  • High cholesterol levels
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
  • People over the age of 70
  • If you have had blocked arteries elsewhere. This is called atherosclerosis. Examples would be angina (chest pains) or a heart attack, strokes or kidney disease.

You may notice that a lot of the above factors (except cigarette smoking) a type 2 diabetic is at risk of developing anyway.

In an upcoming issue, I will discuss why a lot of people with diabetes type 2 also have Hypertension.

Now do you see why that ‘poor circulation’ is something that cannot be ignored?

Peripheral arterial disease is the leading cause of non-traumatic amputations in the United States.

I have encountered some myths in people with diabetes type 2-especially African Americans. One of these myths was that if you were diagnosed with diabetes, that eventually your legs would get cut off.

In fact they usually could tell me stories of friends or relatives that this had happened to.

A myth does not have to become self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is what ignited my passion to write an e-book. And to share with people how to live powerfully with diabetes type 2. I want to dispel this myth.

I want to prove that people living with diabetes do not have to give up on life. They don’t have to wait for their legs to get amputated. End up on dialysis, suffer a heart attack or stroke.

In order to change a statistic, we need to increase our awareness.

How do you know if you have peripheral arterial disease?

 A common complaint that people have is claudication. Claudication causes pain and/or cramps in the legs. They may start to walk. Have to stop because of the pain. And then start to walk again. Then they have to stop again.

As peripheral arterial disease gets worse, the pain in the legs may occur even when at rest. A lot of people may describe this as cramps in the legs, or a ‘Charlie horse’. Peripheral arterial disease may cause less hair on the legs. The toenails may become brittle and break off easily. The skin may also get darker in color and shiny.

How is peripheral arterial disease diagnosed?

 It is straightforward to diagnose someone with peripheral arterial disease when they already come in complaining of ‘poor circulation’. So the person who complains of pain while walking that stops them in their tracks. Or even pain at rest, most likely has peripheral artery disease.

Your doctor most likely will refer you to a vascular specialist.

Here are some tests that may be done:

Ankle-brachial index (ABI)

This is a test that measures the resting blood pressure at the ankle compared to the blood pressure in the arm. Sometimes the test may be normal. So the doctor may have them exercise by walking on a treadmill. Or by taking a brisk walk outside. The normal value for the ABI is between 0.9-1.3.

Segmental Blood Pressure Testing

In this test, the blood pressure is taken at different levels of the leg. For instance the thigh, the calf, and the ankle. The readings are then compared to determine where the blockage is.

Imaging Tests

There are different imaging tests. Ultrasound, CT angiograms and Magnetic resonance angiograms are all examples of imaging studies that can be done. The vascular disease specialist decides what test gets done.

If the symptoms get worse, then the specialist may need to order a more detailed invasive test called an arteriogram. This will help map out exactly where the blockage is. At times surgery may even be needed.

How can you prevent peripheral arterial disease?

You can reduce your risks of developing peripheral arterial disease by making adjustments in your lifestyle. Also follow the medical treatment plan that your doctor recommends.

It is very important to make sure that you follow up with your doctor regularly.

So if you are a person living with diabetes type 2 and you smoke, quit smoking.

Get your cholesterol checked and if it is high, then make sure that it is treated. Lowering the cholesterol to less than 100 mg/dL will help to reduce the symptoms of claudication.

If you have high blood pressure, take your medications. And make sure that you keep your blood pressure under 130/80 mm hg.

If you have had a heart attack, stroke or have angina make sure that you are being properly treated for these conditions. They increase your risk for peripheral artery disease.

Think of the circulatory system in the body like the plumbing in your house.

If the sink gets clogged up one day, there’s a fair chance that the toilet may get clogged another day. This is because as your house gets older the plumbing system is going to need to be unclogged from time to time.

The same thing with cholesterol build up (called atherosclerosis) in the circulatory system of the body.

Medications:

Your doctor or the vascular specialist may also start you on medications for peripheral artery disease.

 Always remember that you can prevent peripheral arterial disease. And even if you do get symptoms, the important thing is to treat it early.

Let’s reduce amputations from peripheral arterial disease.

So remember if you have ‘poor circulation’ please schedule an appointment to see a healthcare provider immediately.

I’d love to read your comments or any questions you may have about this or any other article.

Sharing is caring so if you found this article helpful please share it with someone you love.

Until next week,

To your Health & Wellbeing,

Dr. Eno

Born in London and raised in Nigeria, Dr. Eno Nsima-Obot is a board certified Internal Medicine Physician, with over 20 years of experience in the health & wellness industry.

She graduated from medical school in 1987 with awards in Obstetrics & Gynecology, Clinical Pharmacology and General Surgery. She was also the recipient for the quarterly award for compassion when she worked as a primary care physician with a large multi-specialty medical group in Chicago.

She is trained as an ontological life coach and is committed to helping professional women achieve a higher level of wellbeing as the roadmap to experiencing a more wholesome life.

She is also an author of a book empowering patients to live a more powerful life with diabetes.

Dr. Eno

Born in London and raised in Nigeria, Dr. Eno Nsima-Obot is a board certified Internal Medicine Physician, with over 20 years of experience in the health & wellness industry.

She graduated from medical school in 1987 with several awards in Obstetrics & Gynecology, Clinical Pharmacology and General Surgery. She is passionate about placing a human touch to healthcare and was the recipient for the quarterly award for compassion when she worked as a primary care physician with a large multi-specialty medical group in Chicago.

As a professional life coach, Dr. Eno is committed to helping woman living with chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes achieve optimal health and wellbeing, so that they are able to experience a more wholesome life.

She is also an author of a book on diabetes, designed to educate people about diabetes in an easy to understand way. To download a free preview of her book, click here.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Hughie Bagnell September 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm

This is an excellent article…I am quite familiar with information, it is a health condition that can have a major impact on living and from family experience I am aware that this can lead to amputation of a limb … Thank you, Hughie

Reply

Dr. Eno September 17, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Thanks Hughie please feel free to share this with others. Best Wishes.

Reply

Carol October 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Thank you for your article!I m working my whole life as a hair dresser and my legs are horrible,have constantly painful legs and very bad circulation.I have never visited a vascular specialist.
Also have a hypertension!

Carol

Reply

Melodie Davis January 23, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I’m 56, 132lbs. Have never smoked. Normal to low blood pressure, normal cholesterol levels. I only take cymbalta for arthritis and tarazadone.
My feet feel like they are burning when I put them in slightly warm water for a pedicure. My legs ache during the day after walking around a lot and at night I have restless legs at at times, cramps. Why am i having these issues? Any advice?

Reply

Dr. Eno April 7, 2013 at 8:52 am

Hi Melodie, as always I strongly recommend that you schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. The fact that you are on cymbalta already informs me that there may be issues that you are dealing with which require either some medication adjustment or further workup. Be sure that your healthcare provider is looking at you from a ‘whole person view’ and not just focussing on ‘your feet’. Best of luck.

Reply

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