Friday, 27 September 2013

What Happens If Peripheral Vascular Disease Is Left Untreated?

Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD) is also commonly referred to as Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). It is a condition in which the arteries that supply blood to the arms, legs and feet become narrow and hard resulting in a reduction of the blood supply to these parts of the body. This in turn can lead to nerve and tissue damage.

If The Condition Is Not Treated

A major problem with PVD is that people suffering from it often presume that the initial symptoms are just normal aches and pains and ignore them or use painkillers. The medications only hide the symptoms and do not cure the condition which will continue to get worse while the medication hides the progression. In the early stages of PVD the common signs are noticed only after walking or other exercise of the legs and feet and often fade away after a little rest. It usually starts with pain that happens when walking uphill, walking at a faster than normal pace or walking for a long distance.  As time passes the symptoms appear more quickly and with greater intensity; and the legs may become numb when at rest or be cool to the touch. This is caused by the lower flow of blood.

If the condition remains untreated, the following complications may arise:

Ø  Cramps and severe pain at night while sleeping

Ø  Pain and a tingling (“pins and needles”) feeling in the toes that causes them to becomes so sensitive that even a slight touch like the weight of a sheet on them can result in great pain

Ø  An increase in pain when the leg is raised and a decrease when it is lowered off the side of the bed so that gravity draws more blood down

Ø  The skin begins to darken and takes on a blue tinge

Ø  Sores on the legs and feet do not heal or take much longer than normal to do so

Ø  Atrophy (shrinkage) of the calf muscles

Ø  Hair loss on the feet and toes

Ø  A sensation of the skin being tight and uncomfortable

Ø  Thick toenails

Ø  Sexual impotence because of nerve and tissue damage caused by low blood flow

Ø  In the worst case scenarios untreated PVD can lead to:

Ø  Open sores, infections and injuries to the legs and feet that do not heal. These injuries and infections can cause the development of tissue death, commonly known as gangrene. This condition, known as Critical Limb Ischemia may require amputation of the affected limb.

Ø  The PVD that is causing the problems with the lower limbs and feet may be affecting other parts of the body also, including the supply of blood to the heart and brain which, if untreated, could result in strokes and heart attacks.

PVD Treatment

PVD treatment has two main goals. The first is to manage the pain and other symptoms so that the patient can resume normal activities. The second is to stop the progression of the condition in the feet, legs and other parts of the body so the chances of heart attacks and strokes is reduced.

The first thing to be done is to make medically advised lifestyle changes such as getting enough of the right kind of exercise as well as rest, stopping smoking and alcohol consumption and controlling the diet. If these changes are not enough to reverse the progression of the problem, then an extended course of prescription medication may be required. And in cases where even medication may not be adequate surgery or angioplasty may be required.

Not ignoring foot and leg pain and other problems and consulting a doctor if they continue for a few days, is the first and best step in preventing or at least controlling PVD.

Friday, 13 September 2013

What Causes An Ingrown Toenail? How To Treat It?

Ingrown toenails are among the most common of foot problems and most people would have suffered from this condition at some time or another. It happens when the edge or side of a toenail grows into the soft flesh that is around it. When this happens the area around the nail becomes red, swollen and painful and infections often occur because of the broken skin. Although ingrown toenails are most common on the big toe, they can happen on any toe.

The Causes

There are a number of reasons why an ingrown toenail condition develops. Among the most common are:

Ø  Cutting the nails too short or not straight across. This can cause the growing nail to cut into the flesh that surrounds it.

Ø  Wearing shoes that push against your toenails causing them to grow in an unnatural manner

Ø  Injuries to the toes or toenails

Ø  Hereditary conditions like unusually curved toenails.

In addition to these, medical conditions like diabetes, arthritis, fungal nail disease, poor foot hygiene, incorrect posture and gait and obesity can also cause ingrown toenails. If left untreated ingrown toenails can infect the underlying tissue and bone which in turn can lead to other health complications.

Home Treatment

If an ingrown toenail is spotted in its early stages it may be possible to treat it at home. One of the most common ways, if there is no infection, is to place a small cotton ball or waxed dental floss under the toenail to keep it separate from the skin into which it is cutting. Once the nail has grown enough to be clear of the surrounding skin, the cotton or floss can be removed. Soaking the toe in warm water a few times each day will relieve the pain and discomfort. After the soaking the toes must be completely dried. If this does not help, over-the-counter pain medication may be used.

When to See a Doctor

If the condition does not improve after a few days of home treatment or if there are signs of infection, a doctor, preferably a podiatrist (a doctor specializing in conditions of the feet), should be consulted right away.

The doctor may try prescription medications to relieve the condition if it has not progressed too far. This could include topical or oral medications. However, if the doctor feels that the condition has reached a stage when medication will not suffice, he may advise minor surgery. There are two options here. In many cases the doctor may trim or remove the port of the nail that is growing into the skin. A local anesthetic is used to numb the toe before the procedure.  If the problem is a recurring one the doctor may advise removing a portion of the nail along with the underlying tissue, to prevent that part of the nail from growing in the future. This can be done by traditional surgical methods, the use of chemicals or applying a laser.

The actual course of treatment will be decided by the podiatrist after examining the toe and studying the patient’s medical history to see if there are other medical issues that have to be taken into account when treatment is prescribed.

Preventing Recurrence

The podiatrist will advise the patient on how to prevent the condition from recurring in the future. If the condition has been treated at home then not cutting the nails too short, cutting them straight and not rounded, wearing wide toed shoes to prevent pressure on the toes and protecting the toes from sporting injuries are among the common precautions to be taken.