‘Tis the season…
…for cold injuries that is!
If you’re going outside this winter, you need to be aware of the different types of cold injuries, what they feel and look like, and how to treat them. Cold injuries can be temporary or serious and life-threatening. Keep an eye out for these common cold-related problems.
Hypothermia occurs when the body is losing heat faster than it can produce it. The average body temperature is 98.6 degrees. Hypothermia begins to set in when the body drops below 95 degrees. Hypothermia occurs in three stages
- Increased shivering and reduced blood circulation
- Weak pulse, slow breathing, confusion, and lack of coordination
- Shivering ceases, weak or absent respiration and pulse, loss of consciousness
If you or someone you’re with is experiencing hypothermia, get them to warmth immediately. Remove any wet clothing and wrap the affected person in blankets. Warm, non-alcoholic drinks and hot-water compresses on the neck, chest, and groin areas can help with rewarming.
Frostnip is the first stage leading to frostbite. Blood vessels in the skin constrict to direct blood flow and heat to the internal organs. Frostnip mostly occurs on exposed skin such as ears, noses, and fingers. The skin may turn pale or bright red and feel extremely cold to the touch. Numbness in the affected area is common. Frostnip is generally not serious and can be combatted by seeking warmth. Do not use direct heat as you may not be able to correctly gauge temperature due to numbness.
Frostbite occurs when the extremities are exposed to extreme cold. In mild or superficial frostbite, ice crystals form within the top layers of the skin. Skin changes from red to pale white and the affected extremity may tingle or even hurt with a pins-and-needles feeling. Numbness soon follows. In severe frostbite, ice crystals penetrate through the skin to the tissue beneath. Pain may dissolve as numbness sets in. Frostbite can result in permanent tissue death at this stage.
Treatment for both superficial and severe frostbite involves a gradual rewarming of the body. Never try to rewarm with direct heat and do not attempt to thaw frostbite if there is any chance of refreezing as this can result in additional complications and a higher chance of extremity amputation.
Chilblains, also known as pernio, occur after exposure to prolonged cold but not freezing temperatures. Chilblains can be recognized by sores or bumps that appear after exposure to cold. This can also result in redness, swelling, and itching. Unlike frostbite, chilblains are generally not dangerous and will recede over one to three weeks. However, open sores can lead to infection and further complications. Chilblains occurring on the feet should be treated by a podiatrist to avoid infection.
The best way to avoid a cold injury is to stay indoors and keep warm. If you do go outside, be sure to wear proper socks, gloves, and other winterwear to protect yourself from the cold. At the first sign of a cold injury, seek shelter and warmth immediately. If you’ve suffered a cold-related injury to your feet, make an appointment with the FAAWC today!
Edema is often written off as a fancy term for swelling, something that happens all the time. But swelling is a side effect, meaning you have an underlying injury, condition, or disease that needs to be treated. Often misunderstood and ignored, edema can lead to some very negative results.
What is edema?
Edema is a buildup of fluid in body tissues, resulting in swelling. One of the most common places for edema to occur is in the ankles or legs. This is called peripheral edema.
Why does edema occur?
Edema has many diverse causes. It can occur as a result of pregnancy, medication side effects, or be a symptom of an underlying disease such as congestive heart failure, liver cirrhosis, or kidney disease. The buildup of fluid is caused by salt retention, which holds excess water in the tissues.
Read More: Two Sides of Poor Circulation
How do I recognize edema?
Edema can be identified by swelling present in tissues underlying the skin. Your skin may look shiny or tightly stretched. When the skin is pressed, a dimple may appear and be present for several minutes. Because your feet, ankles, and legs are swollen, clothing, socks, and shoes will fit differently or not at all. Your legs may also feel heavier and walking can become difficult.
What are the negative effects of edema?
Edema that stretches the skin can leave you open to dermatitis (itchy skin), wounds, infection, and ulcers. Due to restricted blood flow, these ulcers may take months to heal or require amputation in severe cases. Persistent edema with pain can also be a symptom of a clotted vein (deep vein thrombosis) in the leg. Decreased circulation can also decrease the elasticity of the arteries, veins, and joints.
Read More: Ulcer FAQs
How can I treat edema?
Some edema can be reduced or eliminated with the use of medications to remove fluid and by changing your daily salt intake. Other treatments for edema include compression socks, elevation, exercise, and weight loss. However, edema is truly a side effect of another disease or condition, and when this occurs, the disease or condition leading to edema needs to be treated to affect the edema itself.
Whether your peripheral edema is the result of a twisted ankle, a pregnancy, or vein disease, it’s important to see a podiatrist. Early treatment and long-term management are key to avoiding negative side effects and keeping you healthy and active. If you have edema, especially without an obvious cause, make an appointment today!
If you’re diabetic, you’ve probably heard about diabetic ulcers. Poor health, injury, and lack of self-care can lead to serious ulcerations on the feet that could necessitate drastic action, such as an amputation. But what is an ulcer? How do they form? And how do you avoid them? Keep reading. We’ve got your answers.
What is a foot ulcer?
In the simplest terms, an ulcer is a sore or an open wound. Minor foot ulcerations affect only the top layers of skin. Deep ulcerations may extend through the skin into the tissue or bone underneath. The area will appear as a red “crater” with a border of toughened skin surrounding it.
How does a foot ulcer form?
Foot ulcers usually form from a small abrasion or cut that goes unnoticed or untreated. Over time, as shoes and everyday activities put pressure and friction on this spot, it will open into an ulcer.
Who gets foot ulcers?
Diabetics and other persons with neuropathy or circulation issues are at the highest risk for foot ulcers. Neuropathy may cause a cut to go unnoticed, growing into an ulcer. Circulation issues prevent blood flow and oxygenation of the tissues that would help with healing. Diabetic patients often suffer from circulation issues and neuropathy, which makes them the highest at-risk group.
How does a foot ulcer heal?
Due to their placement—often on the bottom and sides of the foot—ulcers take a long time to heal and can easily become infected. An ulcer caught in the early stages in a person with few risk factors or complications can heal itself with proper treatment in three to six weeks. Deep ulcers and ulcers in people with risk factors and other health conditions may take up to 20 weeks to heal. Surgical intervention may be necessary, especially if the ulcer becomes infected.
When do foot ulcers become dangerous?
Ulcers are particularly dangerous because of the high risk of infection. In an area of the body that’s already having trouble healing itself, an infection can spell big trouble and require surgical intervention. Infections can become abscesses (pus pocket), bone infections (osteomyelitis), and even gangrene (dead, darkened tissue).
What are the treatment options?
The number one treatment for foot ulcers is off-loading or staying off the affected foot. Your podiatrist may also recommend wearing shoe inserts, compression wraps, foot braces, casts, or diabetic shoes. Ulcers can be debrided, which removes the dead skin and cleans the wound. An infected foot ulcer may be treated with antibiotics or more drastic action may be taken, such as cutting away infected tissue. In a worst-case-scenario, amputation may become necessary.
How do I avoid getting a foot ulcer?
Avoiding foot ulcers is easy if you perform a daily foot inspection, maintain proper foot hygiene, and wear properly fitting socks and shoes. Keep an eye on corns, calluses, cuts, cracks, and abrasions.
If you or a loved one are suffering from or suspect a foot ulcer, call the FAAWC immediately. Early treatment is key to a shorted healing time and avoiding extreme outcomes such as amputation.
Today, most people are aware of the harmful effects of smoking, particularly related to lung and heart health. But did you know smoking can impact the health of your feet?
The harmful chemicals in cigarettes, like carbon monoxide and nicotine, break down layers of cells in your blood vessels, which causes plaque and fat to build up in the vessel walls. This, in turn, can narrow and block arteries throughout the body, preventing adequate blood supply from reaching your feet. When this impacts the arteries in your extremities (arms and legs), it is called Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).
Restricted blood flow can also prevent the nerves in your feet from sending signals to the brain, which can cause peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy can result in numbness, tingling, and a prickling feeling in the feet and legs. It can also prevent the communication of pain signals between the feet and the brain. For example, someone with peripheral neuropathy may not feel pain from a blister forming on the foot. If they aren’t performing daily foot self-examinations, it could continue to go unnoticed until it develops into an ulcer. This is a common occurrence, with as many as one in four diabetics developing a foot ulcer.
Ulcers are sores that appear as craters in the surface of the skin. The skin around the ulcer may be red and inflamed or rough and callused. If left untreated, a foot ulcer can quickly grow and impact the muscles, tendons, and bones of the foot. Infections, such as gangrene, can set in and cause additional complications. Those with diabetes and poor circulation are at a higher risk for ulcers. Between 14 and 24% of diabetics who experience an ulcer will require an amputation of the infected toe, a portion of the foot, or even the entire foot.
Because peripheral neuropathy is characterized by a lack of feeling, symptoms can go unnoticed. Circulation issues, such as PAD, are also easily dismissed or misdiagnosed since the most common symptoms—leg cramping, numbness, and tired or sore muscles—can also be attributed to the pains of everyday life.
There is good news! Lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, exercising, and healthy eating can all help reduce or reverse symptoms of poor circulation and peripheral neuropathy. If you are a diabetic, especially one who smokes, talk to your podiatrist today about your foot health.
It’s never too early to learn about your risk factors and work on a prevention or treatment plan for your pains. Call the FAAWC today to book your appointment.
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