Winter Foot Care
The seasons of the year bring their own challenges when it comes to foot care.
Today as it is rather nippy outside I will be focusing on looking after your feet in the cold weather.
Fluctuations between warm and cold temperatures can cause problems for many individuals.
One condition that is thought to affect up to 10 million people in the UK is Raynaud’s.
Those with Raynaud’s can exhibit complete shutdown of the small capillaries in the fingers and toes leading to pain, numbness, pins and needles and difficulty moving the affected area.
These symptoms can be brought on by cold, anxiety or stress. They can be lessened by keeping your hands and feet at a constant warm temperature and reducing levels of any stress or anxiety.
For more information take a look at Scleroderma and Raynaud’s UK website.
February is Raynaud’s Awareness month. The condition is also being featured on tonight’s BBC 2 Trust Me I am a Doctor, Wednesday 17th January at 8.30pm.
Another condition that is prevalent in cold temperatures is Chillblains.
Chillblains occur due to the inability of the small blood vessels to react appropriately to changes in temperature. According to the Oxford English Dictionary:
Chillblains are a painful, itching swelling on a hand or foot, caused by poor circulation in the skin when exposed to cold.
Chilblains are common in the UK because we experience damp cold weather during the winter months.
When the skin is cold the blood vessels near the surface get narrower. The blood vessels expand when exposed to heat. If this expansion occurs too quickly the blood vessels cannot cope and blood leaks into the surrounding tissue causing the swelling and itchiness associated with chilblains.
They usually develop several hours after exposure to the cold, the affected skin may also swell and turn red or dark blue. In severe cases the skin may blister and sores can develop.
It is important not to scratch the areas as they can easily become infected.
If you are susceptible to developing chilblains there are several steps you can take in order to avoid developing them:
- Limit your exposure to cold.
- Stop smoking as nicotine causes the blood vessels to narrow which can make chilblains worse.
- Keep active as this improves your circulation.
- Look after your feet by moisturising regularly, this stops the skin drying out and cracking.
- Avoid tight shoes and boots, these will reduce circulation to your feet and toes.
- Eat at least 1 hot meal a day, this will help your whole body especially during the winter.
- Warm your shoes on a radiator for 5 minutes before putting them on.
- Keep your house well heated.
- If you have diabetes check your feet regularly. Due to possible reduction in sensation you may not be aware of an infected chilblain.
- Do not try to warm up cold feet by placing them one a hot water bottle or near a heater.
- Wear warm insulating clothes, long socks, tights, leg warmers and even socks own bed if they are cold.
- Attend regular podiatry appointments to catch any potential problems before they arise and obtain suitable and relevant foot care advice.
In summary, the challenges the cold weather brings are not insurmountable. With a little fore thought and planning hands and toes can make it through the winter months with no or little complications.
As podiatrists we are exceptionally well placed to spot any problems and advise accordingly, so if you have any queries about your own or a relatives feet do get in touch to make an appointment.