Why Your Peripheral Neuropathy Feels Worse at Night

Peripheral Neuropathy

The pain, tingling, and burning sensations from diabetic peripheral neuropathy can be debilitating any time of day. But, for some people, these uncomfortable sensations get particularly worse at night, especially when they’re trying to sleep.

If you’re in this category, you might have been told you’re imagining it. But, recent research from the Comprehensive Pain Center at Oregon Health & Sciences University indicates more acute pain at night isn’t in your head. In a study of nearly 650 participants, investigators found patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy — regardless of age, gender, or other health conditions — reported feeling the most significant pain between 11pm and 8am.

Next time you feel your peripheral neuropathy pain intensifying at night, consider these possible causes. In some cases, you can try to get the discomfort under control.

  1. Fewer distractions: At night, there’s less to take your mind off your pain — no chores, no errands, and no talking as you try to drift off to sleep. That’s when your mind and body become more aware of your surroundings. You notice your pain more, making sleep elusive.

To combat that heightened awareness, try to focus on something you enjoy to take your mind off what you’re feeling.

  1. Cooler temperatures: With peripheral neuropathy, according to Loma Linda University Health, your feet will be far more sensitive to cooler air. As temperatures drop at night, your peripheral nerves can begin to tingle more, and you’ll feel more burning or sharp pains. Your heart rate also slows when you’re colder, slowing your blood and increasing painful sensations.

If you can handle the touch on your feet, wrap up in blankets to warm up.

  1. Stress/Fatigue: Sometimes, physical stress and exertion can increase your nerve pain as your body begins to relax at the end of the day. Vigorous exercise and the soreness that accompanies it can contribute to more night-time nerve pain.

Be sure you alternate your exercise routines so you’re not over-taxing your body, and pay attention to when you need to take a break from exercise and let your body rest.

  1. Medication: Even though your medication might work well during the day, keeping you mostly free from pain, it eventually wears off. This typically happens at night, according to the Innovations Stem Cell Center. When you’ve been comfortable all day, you’ll notice the pain much more when it starts to creep back in.

 

Try these strategies to stay comfortable at night if your have peripheral neuropathy pain:

  • Control your blood sugar. Work to keep your levels between 80-130 mg/dL before eating and under 180 mg/dL after meals.
  • Soak your feet in a warm bath to relax your nerves at night. Be sure to check the water temperature to avoid burning your feet.
  • Exercise regularly. It increases blood flow and oxygen to your feet, reducing pain. Listen to your body, though, and take breaks when needed.

Contact Amputation Prevention Centers of America if you have questions.

Protect Yourself from Charcot Foot

Charcot Foot

If you have diabetes, you face the possibility of developing many foot problems, including ulcers, non-healing sores, and even amputation. But, there’s another condition you should know about and watch out for: Charcot foot.

Also called Charcot arthropathy, this condition weakens the bones in the feet of people who have peripheral neuropathy. It also attacks the joints and soft tissues. Over time, it can cause painful sores and actually change the shape of your foot.

Why does Charcot foot happen?

Your bones naturally lose calcium when injured, and, according to the Cleveland Clinic, that makes the bones weaker and more susceptible to further damage. The numbness from peripheral neuropathy increases the danger. If you can’t feel a sprain, a break, or an infected or lingering sore, you’re more likely to continue walking on your foot normally. In some cases, slow healing from a foot surgery can be responsible.

What happens?

Prompted by injury that often doesn’t get timely treatment, your bones lose the calcium that keeps them strong. At that point, your foot can start to lose its shape, and your arch can drop below your toes or heel. Doctors often call this “rocker bottom.”

Additionally, your toes might curl, and your ankle can become twisted and unsteady. Any misshapen bones can also press against your shoes, creating new sores that can also get infected and lead to amputation.

What to look for?

Diagnosing Charcot foot can be difficult, according to a study published in American Family Physician, because it mimics other conditions, including cellulitis and blood clots. Initial X-rays and lab tests can also often look normal.

However, there are some symptoms, other than the fallen arch, that can make you suspect Charcot foot. If your foot becomes reddish, warm to the touch, or swollen, talk with you doctor. You should also be concerned if you have instability in your ankle, any misalignment of the bones that form the joint, or a strong pulse in your foot.

Can you prevent it?

Yes, you can do things to potentially side-step Charcot foot. Follow this list for better foot health:

  1. Get regular check-ups with a foot doctor who has experience treating diabetic foot problems.
  2. Check your feet daily for swelling, redness, warm spots, and sores. Check between your toes, too.
  3. Wash your feet daily, and dry them thoroughly.
  4. Always wear socks and shoes.
  5. Keep your blood sugar levels under control — between 80-130 mg/dL before eating, under 180 mg/dL after.
  6. Take extra care to avoid injury, particularly while exercising.

 
Overall, if you begin to see these changes in your feet — especially if your foot begins to change shape — contact your doctor immediately. Any delays can result in further damage to your foot that could lead to infection or amputation.

For questions, please contact Amputation Prevention Centers of America.

Diabetic Amputation & Neuropathy — Is It Inevitable?

Diabetic Amputation
Diabetic neuropathy — nerve damage caused by high blood glucose levels — affects between 60 percent and 70 percent of individuals with diabetes. If you have it, your diabetic amputation risk will be higher. In fact, more than 50 percent of all amputations annually are associated with diabetes.

According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 86,000 people undergo foot amputations yearly. But, you can reduce your likelihood if you understand the role neuropathy frequently plays in amputations.

How Neuropathy Causes Problems

The nerve damage and reduced sensations in your feet make it far easier for you to sustain injuries and get infections. Because you can’t notice any discomfort, ulcers, infections, and gangrene can develop easily, and poor circulation makes it harder for you to heal.

If the infection can’t be controlled or the wound won’t heal, amputation is a likely outcome to remove dead tissue. Of the roughly 15 percent of all diabetics who develop a foot ulcer, 24 percent will face amputation.

In some cases only toes or parts of the foot are removed to salvage as much healthy tissues as possible. But, if the infection has spread, doctors might have to remove the entire foot or leg. Amputations require several nights in the hospital and up to 8 weeks of recovery time. Prostheses, assistive devices, and home adaptations can help with rehabilitation.

Ways to Reduce Risk for Diabetic Amputation & Neuropathy

You can reduce your chances for developing an injury that ends in amputation.  Following these suggestions can help keep your feet in tact:

  1. Don’t smoke. It constricts the blood vessels, decreasing circulation.
  2. Get routine foot check-ups. Examine your feet daily, using a mirror to see them if needed. Have a medical provider check them regularly, as well.
  3. Control your blood sugar. Keep your levels between 70-130 mg/dL before eating and under 180 mg/dL after meals.
  4. Eat healthy. Choose lean meats, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains. Avoid sugared juices and sodas.
  5. Get at least 30 minutes daily. Swimming and walking are good options.
  6. Practice good foot care. Wash and dry your feet thoroughly every day, putting cornstarch between your toes to minimize moisture. Keep your toenails trimmed short. Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to your feet to reduce cracking. And, wear well-fitting, closed-toe shoes and dry socks without elastic at all times.
  7. Don’t remove warts or callouses with scrapers or scissors. It can leave your feet open to infection.
  8. Keep moving. Wiggle your toes and twist your ankles several times a day.

 

When to Talk With Your Doctor

Even if you follow these tips, problems could still arise. See your doctor if you have any of these issues: fungal infections, splinters, ingrown toenails, corns, bunions, callouses, plantar warts, chilblains, hammertoes, dry skin, gout, and heal pain/spurs.

Although diabetic neuropathy greatly increases your likelihood for foot injury and possible amputation, following these steps can give you the greatest chance for avoiding this surgery.

Contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America for more information on diabetic amputation and neuropathy.

Inherited Neuropathy — Can Numbness Be Hereditary?

Inherited Neuropathy

Eye color, shoe size, and height all have one thing in common — they’re hereditary. It turns out inherited neuropathy can be, too.

While it’s rare, children who have a parent with heritable neuropathy have a 50 percent chance of developing the condition, as well. It can show up as early as birth, but it’s more frequently diagnosed in middle- and older-age. Type 2 diabetes and obesity are also risk factors.

According to an Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology study, there are more than 30 genes that are linked to inherited neuropathy. A neurologist can diagnose whether you have the condition via nerve conduction studies, nerve biopsies, or genetic testing.

There are two common forms of inherited neuropathies — Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) and Hereditary Neuropathy with Liability to Pressure Palsies (HNPP). Overall, they share many similar symptoms. Individuals experience pain and tingling in their hands and feet, muscle weakness and loss of mass in their feet and lower legs.  They also experience impaired sweating, low blood pressure upon standing up, and physical deformities, such as high foot arches, hammertoes, and curved spine.

What Happens With CMT?

CMT affects approximately 1 in 3,300 people. There are many CMT subtypes, but CMT1A is the most common. It affects 20 percent of people who seek medical attention for undiagnosed peripheral neuropathy.

Patients with CMT have difficulty lifting their feet, weak ankles, drop foot, and have unsteady balance. They also exhibit poor hand coordination, making it harder to hold pencils, button or zip clothes, and turn door knobs. Additionally, they can be hyper-sensitive to cold temperatures. Muscle weakness and poor circulation can turn hands and feet cold, as well as lead to ankle and foot swelling.

Sometimes, individuals with CMT can also lose their knee-jerk reactions and experience hand tremors. This is called Roussy-Levy Syndrome. Additionally, weak breathing and shortness of breath are rare, but they can be life-threatening. If those symptoms appear, a respiratory specialist might recommend a ventilator.

What Occurs With HNPP?

HNPP is even more rare than CMT, appearing in 2-5 individuals per 100,000.

Affected individuals are extremely sensitive to pressure, and they can have difficulty carrying heavy bags, leaning on their elbows, or sitting in chairs. Frequently, they experience tingling, numbness, and loss of sensation in areas impacted by the neuropathy. These symptoms typically strike the hands, arms, feet, and legs.

Often, HNPP episodes last for several months. Long durations can lead to permanent muscle weakness and sensation loss.

Prevention & Treatment

There’s no way to prevent inherited neuropathy, but genetic counseling is available to parents who worry about passing the condition on to their children.

Additionally, there’s no cure, but ongoing management techniques can greatly improve quality of life. For example, pain medications, physical therapy, corrective surgery, therapeutic shoes, braces, and support devices can greatly reduce the impact inherited neuropathy has. A balanced diet and exercise are also beneficial.

Be sure to seek medical attention as soon as symptoms for inherited neuropathy appear. The earlier the diagnosis, the better prognosis and outlook you’ll have.

For more information, contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America.

Can’t Feel Your Hands or Feet? It Could Be Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic Neuropathy

If you have diabetes, you know controlling your blood sugar is important. But it’s not just about monitoring your insulin. Healthy glucose levels help stave off diabetic neuropathy, a painful nerve condition that affects your mobility and quality of life.

What is diabetic neuropathy?

Diabetic neuropathy is feeling loss in your extremities from nerve damage. It typically strikes the legs and feet, but numbness can appear in other parts of your body.

What causes diabetic neuropathy?

Long-term high blood sugar levels (higher than 130 mg/dL before eating; higher than 180 mg/dL after eating) can injure your nerves. Once damaged, it’s harder for them to fire signals throughout your body. Nerve inflammation, genetic factors, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also be factors.

Types of diabetic neuropathy

There are four main types. Talk with your doctor about which form you have.

  1. Peripheral: This is most common, impacting up to 50 percent of diabetics, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It starts in the legs and feet, can spread to the arms and hands and worsens at night. Typical symptoms include numbness, reduced temperature sensitivity, tingling, burning and sharp pains, as well as sensitivity to touch, muscle weakness, poor balance and decreased coordination. Because you can’t feel pressure, ulcers and sores are likely to develop on your feet.
  2. Autonomic: This neuropathy, found in up to 30 percent of diabetics, affects your heart, bladder, stomach, intestines, sex organs and eyes. It prevents you from recognizing blood sugar drops, and a sluggish stomach causes nausea, vomiting, bloating and appetite loss. Incontinence and constipation occur frequently, too. Sharp blood pressure drops and racing heart rates are possible, as well as sexual effects — vaginal dryness in women and erectile dysfunction in men.
  3. Radiculoplexus neuropathy: Most common in individuals with Type 2 diabetes and older adults, this type attacks thighs, hips, buttocks and legs. Eventually, your muscles shrink, making it harder to stand from a seated position. You could also experience abdominal swelling and weight loss.
  4. Mononeuropathy: Also called focal neuropathy, it’s most common in older adults. It affects the face, torso and legs, causing severe pain that suddenly strikes the shin, foot, lower back, thigh, chest or abdomen. However, it tends to disappear on its own within a few weeks or months.

 

What increases your risk?

Your risk increases the longer you’ve had diabetes, and improper blood-sugar control raises your likelihood even more. Existing kidney disease also releases toxins into your blood that cause nerve damage. Additionally, a BMI >24 and smoking put you at risk.

Can you prevent or manage it?

According to the NIH, exercise, following your diabetic meal plans, smoking cessation and taking prescribed medications can prevent neuropathy. Also, limit alcohol consumption to one daily drink for women, two for men.

If you have neuropathy, you can limit its impact. Maintain healthy blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and weight ranges. Keep your feet clean and dry, checking them daily for sores, cuts or ulcers.

When should you see your doctor?

Any time you have a lingering cut or sore on your foot, seek medical attention. Discuss dizziness, new burning or tingling sensations or progressive weakness, as well as digestive or sexual function changes with your doctor. These symptoms don’t automatically mean you have diabetic neuropathy, but get them checked to ensure you don’t overlook effective treatment.

If you have any questions, contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America.

Living with – and Limiting – Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that causes numbness in your extremities and it has no cure. The good news is you can limit how much it impacts your body and life. Work with your doctor to secure a proper diagnosis and outline an effective treatment plan.

What will your doctor do if you have diabetic neuropathy?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, as well as check your heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tone. He or she will also check your reflexes, mainly in your ankles. A tuning fork test will determine sensitivity in your feet to vibration and a nylon fiber pinprick tests sensitivity to touch.

What are your treatment options?

Proper treatment can slow progression. There are several things you can do.

  • Medication: Discuss available medications with your doctor, including alternative therapies. Some medications can ease neuropathic pain by 30 percent to 50 percent. In some cases, alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, can alleviate symptoms when combined with medication.
  • Diet: Eating smaller meals improves digestion. Limit fiber and fat, concentrating mainly on fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and moderate amounts of fish, poultry and nuts. Eat only small amounts of red meat.
  • Blood Sugar: Keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range (lower than 130 mg/dL before eating, lower than 180 mg/dL after eating) and maintaining a hemoglobin A1C of less than 7 percent can reduce nerve damage by up to 60 percent, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
  • Exercise: Strive for 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Biking, walking, swimming, running and aerobics are good options to improve circulation to your arms, legs, hands and feet.
  • Get warm: Take a warm bath. It can boost your circulation.
  • Vitamins: Vitamin D can protect you against nerve pain. Getting enough on your own is difficult, so add a supplement to reach the 600-800 IU you need daily. Recent research revealed enough Vitamin D reduces neuropathy symptoms within two months. Low B12 also causes nerve damage and low B6 can decrease the chemicals in your body responsible for sending messages. Have your doctor check your levels.
  • Capsaicin cream: Hot peppers might make you think about having a spicy mouth, but the chemical ingredient that causes that sensation — capsaicin — can also alleviate the burning and pain associated with nerve damage. In fact, a study published in the journal Pain showed wearing an 8-percent capsaicin patch reduced pain by 30 percent after two weeks. Only your doctor can prescribe a higher-level cream, but even a 0.1-percent cream can provide up to 11-percent relief.

Contact us

Overall, since there’s no cure, you can’t completely alleviate the symptoms associated with your diabetic neuropathy. But, with proper treatment — and consultation with your doctor — you can significantly reduce how much it impacts your quality of life.

If you have any additional questions about diabetic neuropathy, contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America.

What’s that Sore? Diabetic Foot Ulcer 101

Diabetic Foot Ulcer

Do you have a sore on your foot that’s been there for a while without improving? If you have diabetes, chances are you’ve developed a diabetic foot ulcer.

In that case, it’s important to understand what the ulcer is, what caused it, what risks it presents, and how you can treat it.

What’s a diabetic foot ulcer?

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, diabetic foot ulcers affect approximately 15 percent of people with diabetes. They’re open sores on the feet from the ankle down. Most develop on the bottom of your feet, particularly under your big toe or the ball of your foot. Typically, ulcers begin with foot injuries, such as cuts or blisters.

These wounds can linger for weeks without improvement. Between 14-24 percent of ulcers end with amputation.

Who’s at risk?

Some individuals face a higher ulcer risk. Native-American, African-American, and Hispanic patients are more likely to develop ulcers, as are men and patients over 60. Additionally, individuals with vision problems, chronic kidney disease, and obesity experience greater risk. Heart disease and high blood sugar also impede your body’s ability to heal and fight infection.

Some behaviors also make foot ulcers more likely to develop. Alcohol consumption, poorly-trimmed toenails, tobacco use, poor hygiene, and wearing poorly-fitted shoes (ones without enough cushioning or room for your toes) can promote ulcer formation.

What causes ulcers?

In addition to high blood pressure and injury, there are other causes of ulcer development and poor healing. In fact, nearly 43 percent of ulcers occur in people with both of these conditions:

Diabetic neuropathy: This common complication involves nerve damage in your feet, frequently leading to total sensation loss.  This makes it harder for you to notice any scrapes, cracks, or blisters.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD): This condition blocks arteries in your legs, strictly limiting blood flow. Without proper circulation, your body can’t get enough oxygen to the wound for healing.

Are ulcers life-threatening?

They can be. Without treatment, infectious bacteria can damage and kill your skin and tissues. It can also infect your blood stream or cause a bone infection (osteomyelitis), both of which can lead to sepsis.

If you have PAD, an untreated diabetic foot ulcer can also lead to ischemia where tissue dies, becomes gangrene, potentially leading to death.

What can you do?

Seek treatment for a diabetic foot ulcer within six weeks. Waiting longer drastically reduces your chances to heal.

Your doctor will prescribe medication to prevent or treat infection and will remove dead skin or tissue (debridement). He or she will tell you to alleviate pressure from your foot by wearing a brace, specialized cast, or using a wheelchair or crutches. Control your blood sugar levels (between 80-130 mg/dL before eating and under 180 mg/dL after eating) and monitor your feet daily for any injuries or changes.

With this knowledge, you can keep track of any lingering wounds on your feet and pursue your best treatment options. If you have any questions about a diabetic foot ulcer, please contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America.

How Oxygen Therapy Works | HBO Therapy

HBO Therapy
If you have a foot ulcer or leg wound that is linked to diabetes, you likely know how long these sores can linger. And, the longer they take to heal, the more vulnerable you are to infection and other risks. Speeding up the healing process is better for your health all around.

That’s where hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy comes in. Research and clinical experiences show this therapy can reduce the presence of certain non-healing wounds. It can also speed up how quickly they improve. The key is increasing the amount of oxygen that reaches injured tissue.

How is HBO Therapy performed?

HBO therapy exposes patients to 100 percent oxygen inside a pressurized chamber that has up to three times the air pressure of our everyday environment. During the session, the lungs are able to take in more oxygen than they usually can, funneling it into the blood stream. That’s critical because more oxygen equals more healing.

What does oxygen do?

Your body’s tissues need oxygen to function properly, and they also need it to fix any problems, such as wounds or sores. During HBO therapy, oxygen dissolves into the body’s fluids, including blood, plasma, and central nervous system fluids. The oxygen can easily be transported through the circulatory system. Once it reaches a foot ulcer or leg wound, oxygen increases the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria.  It also helps to fight infection, and reduce swelling. Additionally, it helps the body grow new blood vessels that will continue to help oxygen reach injured tissue.

How good are the results?

Recent clinical trials show HBOT can be an effective tool in improving the condition of long-lasting foot ulcers or leg wounds. The Journal of Anesthesiology Clinical Pharmacology conducted a study that followed 30 individuals with chronic non-healing wounds for 30 days. The participants treated with HBO therapy saw a 59% reduction in wound area. Patients treated with more conventional therapies only saw a 26% improvement.

Other studies also showed HBO therapy can improve the condition of these wounds. An additional 12 randomized trials involving 577 people, many of whom reported having diabetic foot ulcers, showed positive results. Based on the study outcomes, patients who received HBO therapy saw foot ulcer improvement at six weeks. HBO also reduced the size of leg vein wounds.

Contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America if you have any questions regarding HBO therapy.

Causes for Leg Amputation

Leg Amputation

Having diabetes doesn’t mean you’ll definitely face a leg amputation, but it does increase your risk. In fact, nearly two-thirds of limb amputations in the United States are diabetes-related.

According to the American Diabetes Association, while the number of amputations has dropped by half over the past 20 years, there are still 73,000 amputations performed annually in adults with diabetes. Foot ulcers are largely the ultimate cause. Ulcers develop in 15 percent of diabetics, and, of that group, 24 percent end up losing a limb. The risk is two to three times higher for black, Hispanic, and Native American patients.

But, what causes the ulcers that lead to losing your leg? There are several factors that put you at risk, and being aware of these problems can help you minimize their impact.

High Blood Sugar

Blood sugar levels that are too high prompt nerve swelling and scarring. Damaged nerves have trouble sending messages, so you’ll eventually go numb in your lower extremities. Without feeling, you’re less likely to notice sores and wounds on your feet. Left untreated, these spots can become ulcers that develop infections that reach down into your bone and impact your entire foot and leg.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

PAD is more common in individuals with diabetes. The condition, also called atherosclerosis, clogs your arteries and decreases your blood circulation. Poor circulation makes it harder for any ulcers to heal. Without the proper blood supply, your ulcers will continue to worsen, opening the door that leads to infection and potential leg amputation.

Compromised Immune System

If your diabetes isn’t well controlled, your immune system can’t function properly to fight off the infections that lead to leg amputations. Without white blood cells and sufficient blood supply to attack infection, good, healthy tissue dies. At that point, a life-threatening infection can spread quickly to your bones and joints, making an amputation the only treatment option.

Skin Changes

Researchers from the University of Bristol recently discovered ulcers happen in the lower limbs of some diabetic patients because the connective tissue in the skin actually changes. The tissue renews at a faster rate, making collagen abnormal and skin weaker. Weaker skin breaks down faster and forms ulcers more easily.

Although more research is needed to figure out how common the problem is, the researchers said maintaining low blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels is a good way to treat the skin changes. The skin alterations can be undetectable for a long time, though, so don’t wait to control your levels until you see problems.

Reduce Your Risk, Control Your Blood Sugar

There are things you can do to limit your amputation risk, however. The biggest step is controlling your blood sugar — keep it at 80-130 mg/dL before meals and 180 mg/dL after eating. Include lean meats, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains in your diet, and avoid sugar-sweetened juice and soda. Exercise 30 minutes daily. Maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure (less than 120/80), and take your diabetes medications as directed.

Contact Us to Learn More on Causes for a Leg Amputation

Overall, remember that having diabetes doesn’t mean you will lose a limb. Work with your doctor to keep your diabetes under control and ensure your feet are as healthy as possible. If you have any questions or concerns, you can also contact us at Amputation Prevention Centers of America.

Get Your Blood Flowing: Improving Circulation with Diabetes

improving circulation
Your first thought about managing your diabetes might be controlling your blood sugar. But, don’t forget about improving circulation. Your blood needs to pump smoothly so your feet and legs stay as healthy as possible.

If you’re feeling numbness, tingling, or cramping in your feet, peripheral arterial disease (PAD) could be to blame. This condition, that narrows and hardens arteries due to fatty plaque build-up, affects between 8-12 million Americans, and approximately one-third of individuals with diabetes over age 50 live with it.

Poor blood flow plays a large role in the 73,000 amputations that occur among people with diabetes annually, so improving circulation could not only improve how your legs and feet feel, but it could also save you from losing an extremity.

Consider taking these steps to improving circulation:

Exercise: Engage in some form of cardiovascular activity for 30 minutes five days a week to keep your blood pumping. Biking, walking, running, swimming, and aerobics are good options. The most important thing is to be sure you’re moving your toes, feet, ankles, and legs.

Quit smoking: Smoking hardens your arteries, much like PAD, and decreases your circulation. Stopping can help improve how well your blood reaches your legs and feet.

Control your cholesterol: High cholesterol can narrow and harden your arteries, limiting your circulation. Talk with your doctor about what your optimal cholesterol numbers are and shoot for lower.

Keep blood sugar low: Managing your blood sugar levels is also important to maintaining healthy blood flow. Keep your levels between 80-130 mg/dL before eating and under 180 mg/dL after eating. Pay attention to your A1C levels, too, though. The target level for people with diabetes is 6.5 percent.

De-stress: Not only does stress increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, but it also sends more blood to your brain, heart, and skeletal muscles. Conscious muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and visualizing comfortable situations, such as using the WarmFeet technique, can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, increase your body temperature, and route blood to more areas of the body, including your extremities. In fact, WarmFeet has been clinically proven to increase circulation and heal foot ulcers.

Wear diabetic compression socks: Compression socks apply pressure to your calves and feet, straightening out your veins so the valves work better and let more blood flow through. Be sure any socks you choose won’t wrinkle and offer extra padding and flat seams. Socks made from acrylic, merino wool, bamboo, and charcoal mixed with spandex minimize the abrasiveness on your feet and decrease the amount of moisture that could come in contact with any foot sores you might develop. Compression socks range from extra-light to extra-firm pressure. Talk with your doctor about what would be best for you.

Take medications correctly: If your doctor prescribes blood thinners, take it as directed. It can’t stop the build-up of plaque on your arteries, but it can improve your circulation.

 

Following these suggestions could help you avoid the negative impacts of poor circulation. The more freely your blood flows, the less pain, discomfort, numbness, and cold temperatures you’ll experience in your feet and legs.

Contact the Amputation Prevention Centers of America for more information on how to improve your circulation.