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PAD and Your Feet

Source: Everyday Health

People with peripheral artery disease need to take extra care to protect their feet and toes. Try these expert foot care recommendations to maintain your foot health and overall health.

Proper foot care is extremely important for people with peripheral artery disease (PAD) because the condition leaves your feet more susceptible to developing serious wounds, ulcers, and infections. "PAD results in less blood and therefore less oxygen to the feet,” explains Andrew Shapiro, DPM, a podiatrist in private practice in Valley Stream, N.Y. That means any injury to the feet is harder to heal. People with PAD also develop thinner skin, making the feet even more vulnerable. "Those with PAD need to be extra cautious about protecting their feet," says Shapiro.

Wash and Moisturize Daily

Paying attention to your feet starts with creating a daily foot care routine. Each day, thoroughly wash your feet with warm water and soap or cleanser, then pat feet dry — including between the toes. Follow up with a rich moisturizer to help prevent dry, cracked skin. "A crack in the skin is a potential portal to allow bacteria to invade the body, causing an infection," says Shapiro. Washing feet daily with soap and water reduces the number of bacteria on the skin.

Choose the Right Shoes and Sock

If you have PAD, make sure that your shoes fit your feet well and feel comfortable. Avoid tight shoes that chafe your skin, pinch your feet, or cause any other type of discomfort. "Ill-fitting shoes can cause undue rubbing of the skin, causing a break in the skin," Shapiro says. He also suggests wearing thick socks because they offer protection from pressure spots and also help protect your feet from temperature extremes.

Treat Fungal Foot Problems Promptly

Feet are exposed to more than their share of health woes, including athlete’s foot. People with PAD should be sure to check their feet for fungal infections regularly and take care of foot problems right away. "Fungal infection of the skin, such as athlete's foot, can result in openings in the skin, allowing a secondary bacterial infection," Shapiro says. "Thick fungal nails can press into the nail bed, causing a break in the skin and a resulting bacterial infection." Don’t try to treat foot infections on your own — see your doctor or podiatrist for the best treatment.

Trim Toenails Carefully

If you have PAD, be aware of how not to trim your toenails — cutting them too short, cutting them in a rounded shape, or accidentally cutting the skin. The repercussions of trimming toenails incorrectly can be serious because, again, a cut in the foot or toe can open the door to bacteria and infection. "Be careful when trimming toenails," says Shapiro. "Cut them straight across, and never cut into the corners of the toes."

Skip the Bare Feet

Even if you love the feeling of your bare feet in the grass, it's best for people with PAD to wear shoes at all times as part of their foot care routine. "Barefoot walking offers no protection from environmental and household hazards," explains Shapiro. To help prevent foot problems, always put on slippers, sandals, or shoes. Common objects that pose a danger to feet, such as glass, wood splinters, pebbles, and metal, are even more hazardous to someone with PAD.

Get Help for Corns and Bunions

If you develop painful corns or bunions, don't attempt to treat them on your own. You could cut yourself trying to file, cut, or trim these growths. Seek professional foot care and treatment from a podiatrist for these foot problems. Remember that when you have PAD, a foot injury is more serious — it's harder to treat and takes longer for your feet to heal.

Keep Moving

Exercise is important for everyone, especially for people with PAD, who have reduced blood flow to the feet. Get your feet moving with regular daily exercise and some foot flexing to promote better blood flow. To keep blood flowing to your feet, move your feet in circles and wiggle your toes periodically throughout the day, especially when sitting. Keep active with exercises like walking, bicycling, and swimming that minimize foot stress. Choose exercise activities you enjoy, but get the green light from your doctor before you start a new fitness program.

Check In With Your Podiatrist

If you have PAD, Shapiro suggests seeing a podiatrist for treatment any time you experience pain or injury to your feet, rather than trying to treat foot problems yourself with over-the-counter products. While daily at-home foot care is important, getting medical attention when you need it can prevent serious PAD complications and worsening foot problems. It’s also important to go for regular podiatrist check-ups if you have diabetes in addition to PAD and have lost sensation in your feet from nerve damage.

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