Ischemic Foot

If your feet are constantly cold or discolored, you may be suffering from ischemic foot or another circulatory issue.

Ischemic foot refers to inadequate blood flow to your foot due to poor arterial circulation. Without sufficient blood flow, your foot does not receive the necessary oxygen and nutrients for the cells to function properly. As a result, sores on your foot may never fully heal, and if left untreated, the tissue may eventually die and require amputation.

Causes of ischemic foot

The most common cause of ischemic foot is atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Arterial build up is commonly seen in individuals who have hypertension (high blood pressure), hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), or diabetes.

Some other less common causes of ischemic foot include arterial blood clots, arterial spasms, and arterial injuries.

Ischemic foot symptoms

Symptoms of ischemic foot in its early stages may include: 

  • Cold feet. 
  • Muscle cramps after walking. 
  • Purple or red discoloration of your toes.
  • As the condition becomes more advanced, symptoms may include: 
  • An ischemic ulcer or a sore that won't heal. 
  • Burning pain in the ball of your foot and toes while resting. 
  • Gangrene or tissue death.

Treatment of ischemic foot

In its early stages, ischemic foot can be treated by increasing blood flow to your feet and protecting the skin in order to prevent sores from forming. Exercise such as walking can help increase blood flow. Medication may also be prescribed to promote better circulation. Walking in bare feet should be avoided as this can increase the risk of injury. Instead, socks, comfortable shoes, or insoles should be worn to prevent rubbing and irritation which can lead to ulcers.

As symptoms of ischemic foot worsens or if there is a risk of gangrene (tissue death), surgery might be necessary to avoid amputation. Surgery is usually performed to either clear the blockage or bypass the artery. There are risks associated with surgery, so it is important to consult a physician to determine if surgery is the most appropriate treatment option for you.