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Skin care tips for people with PAD, from a dermatologist

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) affects your blood flow. But the signs and symptoms of it can appear on your skin.

Many people with PAD notice changes on the skin of their feet and legs, such as:

  • Cool to the touch
  • Redness or changes in color
  • Changes in texture (skin can be brittle or shiny in spots)
  • Thinning of leg hair
  • Sores on your toes and feet that take a long time to heal

“The skin is the largest organ in the body, and although it can be considered ‘external’, the skin can often reflect the health and well-being of internal organs,” says dermatologist Jeremy A. Brauer, managing director, founder and CEO of Spectrum Skin and Laser in Purchase, NY.

“While patients are initially unaware of any underlying disease, what they notice with their skin, hair and nails may be the first sign of illness,” says Brauer.

Time to see a doctor

Any changes in your skin or other symptoms may be a sign of PAD or another condition that is getting worse. Stay aware of symptoms and notify your dermatologist or doctor if you notice the following or other changes:

  • Redness, light spots or other color changes on your feet and legs
  • Cut, bubble, cracks or scratches that do not heal
  • Burning or aching pain in the feet
  • Skin that feels very cool to the touch when you are not cold

Why it happens

PAD can affect your skin because it involves circulatory problems. Skin changes can occur if you butcher becomes narrower or blocked, making it difficult for blood filled with oxygen and nutrients to flow freely to your legs and feet.

If there is a total loss of blood circulation to the legs or feet, PAD symptoms can become severe and lead to gangrene – death of body tissue – and, in some cases, need amputation.

In addition to changes in your skin, you can also ache in your feet or legs when walking or moving. But the pain goes away when you rest and your lower body needs less blood to circulate.

Although some of these skin symptoms themselves may not seem overly worrying, they may be signs that PAD is getting worse. If left untreated, you may be at greater risk of developing a heart attack, stroke, or other serious conditions caused by blockages in your blood vessels.

Management of skin symptoms

If you have PAD and notice changes to your skin, make an appointment with your dermatologist. They can suggest ways to treat the skin problems so that you feel better and help to find out if something more is going on.

“When someone is worried about their skin, they need to make a point to see their dermatologist,” says Brauer. “This is especially true if you notice sores on the feet (or anywhere on the body) that do not heal or get worse. At that visit or subsequent visits, laboratory work can be ordered or referrals made to specialists to diagnose any underlying conditions. ”

Since skin – especially on the feet and legs – can be affected by PAD, it is important to check your lower body regularly and notice any changes, and to give your skin a little extra TLC.

“Opt for shorter, lukewarm showers, and then moisturize well to keep the skin hydrated and the integrity of the barrier intact,” says Brauer.

Managing a systemic disease

While PAD is a circulatory condition, it can affect the entire body, including the skin. The things you do to take care of your whole body will help with PAD.

“Skin health is a part of overall health and wellness,” says Brauer. “Good eating and sleeping habits, a healthy, well-balanced diet are all keys to maintaining a healthy body and healthy skin.”

You must also quit smoking and eat a balanced diet high in fiber and low in cholesterol, fat and sodium. Ask your doctor how to start an exercise program and look at any other health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, en high cholesterol, as they can also make PAD worse.

And if your doctor prescribes medication, make sure you take it as prescribed.

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