If you are caring for a diabetic or someone with limited mobility, it's wise to check their legs for signs of poor circulation. Between 40 and 55% of adults have some form of circulation disorder in their legs, resulting in swelling, pain and discomfort.
How do circulation problems occur?
Normally, the heart pumps blood through the arteries and returns the blood to the heart through the veins. Valves in the veins keep the blood moving back toward the heart. Problems occur when the valves no longer close properly, causing blood to flow backwards.
What kinds of complications can develop?
- Pooling: Blood flowing backward can collect in the lower leg, especially near the ankles and calves (edema).
- Chronic swelling: This can cause the skin to break down and ultimately result in to an open wound (venous ulcer).
- Enlarged veins: The backup of blood causes higher pressure in the veins, which may strain the vein walls, causing them to enlarge (varicose veins).
- Blood clots: Blood cells can stick together near a damaged valve, forming a clot. The most serious is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which can break loose and cause more serious problems.
What can I do to minimize these complications?
Elevate feet and legs
This helps send the blood back toward the heart and reduces swelling. Whenever possible, avoid having your care recipient stand for long periods of time.
Check with your doctor to see if your care recipient is a good candidate for a simple exercise program. Walking, swimming, bending the knees or simply wiggling toes can improve blood flow.
Stockings help improve blood flow in the right direction. Gradual (or gradient) compression stockings apply more pressure at the ankles, lessening the pressure higher on the leg. Check with your doctor to see what compression level is right for the patient.
This information was brought to you courtesy of BSN-Jobst.