As the temperatures drop this winter, you are most likely outfitting your body with warm sweaters, gloves, and coats, but don't forget your feet! Cold weather can exacerbate existing foot issues or cause additional ailments without proper care and precautions. In this blog, we will share some common lower limb problems you may experience this winter and how they can be treated at home or by an experienced podiatrist.
Dry & Cracked Heels
Turning your heat on in the winter creates dry air that can contribute to dehydrated and cracked heels. Deep fissures or cracks can develop if left untreated, exposing vulnerable skin and increasing the risk of foot infection. Luckily, with daily maintenance, you can avoid serious injury to your feet. Moisturize daily and always after a bath or shower, as hot water can dehydrate the skin. Hydrate regularly; if cracks still occur, lock in moisture overnight by applying a heavy-duty moisturizer or petroleum jelly to your feet and then cover them with socks. This application allows the skin to absorb the extra moisture while asleep and off your feet.
Prolonged exposure to cold air can cause painful points of inflammation on your toes called chilblains. These red patches are often itchy and painful to the touch. The best way to avoid developing chilblains is to keep your feet warm and dry and ensure you are wearing footwear that does not put pressure on any part of your feet, especially the toes. In addition, a podiatrist may recommend a topical steroid to ease pain and inflammation if they don't clear up through proper protection.
Raynaud's phenomenon occurs when extremities like fingers or toes are exposed to cold air, this can happen in as little as a minute. As a result, the capillaries in those digits spasm, limiting blood flow to the area and causing fingers or toes to lose sensation and turn white or blue. This condition is more common in women but can affect individuals of all ages. To avoid Raynaud's syndrome, always protect your feet before heading out into winter weather. Wear warm socks that wick away moisture and shoes that keep your feet insulated and protected. If you are going outside for an extended period, consider time-released insole foot warmers available for purchase over the counter at your local pharmacy.
Cold weather can worsen peripheral neuropathy symptoms for patients that already experience decreased sensation in the lower limbs. To protect your feet, keep them warm in thick socks and protective footwear. In addition, make sure your shoes offer plenty of room for your toes to wiggle. Shoes that pinch or cramp the foot can worsen symptoms rather than alleviate them.
If you are experiencing pain in your lower limbs, don't delay treatment! It is always best to seek the advice of an experienced podiatrist. After a thorough examination, our doctors can recommend treatments that will get you back on your feet pain-free. Call us at 717-757-3537 to schedule an appointment at any of our five locations in central Pennsylvania.