A lot of times during the course of taking care of patients with type 2 diabetes, 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. Do you want to learn more? Visit Center for Vascular Medicine – Columbia – Columbia Vascular Surgeon.
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:
Type 2 diabetes 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 calledatherosclerosis. 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, type 2 diabetics are at risk of developing anyway.
Now do you see why 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 met some myths in people with type 2 diabetes, especially African-Americans. One of these myths was that if you are 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. 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.