Accessibility Tools

What is Ischemic Foot?

Ischemic foot is a condition where there is inadequate blood supply to the foot due to vascular disease or an obstruction in the arteries. The lack of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues disrupt normal cell function, resulting in severe pain and skin ulcers or sores. If left untreated, the condition can progress to gangrene and eventual loss of the limb.

Causes of Ischemic Foot

Some of the common causes of the ischemic foot include:

  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Atherosclerosis (plaque formation in the arteries)
  • Arterial spasm or injury
  • Reduced blood circulation to legs

Risk factors for Ischemic Foot

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Being elderly
  • Smoking
  • Family history of vascular disease
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Symptoms of Ischemic Foot

The most notable feature of the ischemic foot is ischemic rest pain - a burning pain in the foot even at rest. Other symptoms include:

  • Muscle cramps during and after walking
  • Cold feet
  • Ulcer formation
  • Discoloration of toes
  • Pain or numbness in the foot
  • Weak pulses in the foot

Diagnosis of Ischemic Foot

Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and perform a physical examination including auscultation of the limb with a stethoscope to identify ‘whooshing’ sounds (known as bruits) which are a sign of ischemic foot. Based on this, the following diagnostic tests may be ordered:

  • Doppler ultrasound: This test measures the quality of blood flow through the blood vessels.
  • CT scan: This test can produce 3D images of the arteries of the foot.
  • Angiogram: This test can detect any plaque formation within the blood vessels.

Treatment for Ischemic Foot

Ischemic foot is a serious condition that requires treatment to restore normal blood flow to the affected area. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, treatments may include:

  • Conservative measures: These include medications to reduce the pain and manage conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol; and regular exercise to improve blood circulation.
  • Angioplasty: This minimally invasive procedure involves placement of a catheter tube into the artery then inflating a balloon at the catheter tip to to open the lumen allowing more blood flow.
  • Stenting: This procedure involves the placement of stents to support a weakened artery.
  • Arterial Surgery: This surgery is performed to remove or bypass a blocked artery.

Other Foot & Ankle Conditions