Diabetic Complications and Your Feet
When it comes to your feet, there are several risk factors that can increase your chances of developing foot problems and diabetic infections in the legs and feet. First of all, poorly fitting shoes are one of the biggest culprits of diabetic foot complications. If you have red spots, sore spots, blisters, corns, calluses, or consistent pain associated with wearing shoes, new proper fitted shoes must be obtained immediately. Additionally, if you have common foot abnormalities such as flat feet, bunions, or hammertoes, prescription shoes or orthotics from your podiatrist may be necessary to further protect your feet from other damage.
People who have long-standing or poorly controlled diabetes are also at risk for having damage to the nerves in their feet, which is known in the medical community as peripheral neuropathy. If you have nerve damage, you may not be able to feel your feet normally and you may also be unable to sense the position of your feet and toes while walking and balancing, which can cause even more harm to your feet.
Normal nerves allow people to sense if their shoes are too tight or if their shoes are rubbing on the feet too much. With diabetes, you may not be able to properly sense minor injuries, such as cuts, scrapes and blisters-all signs of abnormal wear, tear, and foot strain. The following can also compromise the health of your feet:
- Poor circulation
- Trauma to the foot
Diabetes can be extremely dangerous to your feet, so take precautions now. You can avoid serious problems such as losing a toe, foot, or leg by following proper prevention techniques offered by your podiatrist. Remember, prevention is the key to saving your feet and eliminating pain.
Diabetics are more prone to various foot problems than those without diabetes due to the development of painful nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy. Neuropathy can affect your entire body, but most often the legs and feet are the most prone areas to serious health complications.
The damage to your nerves can cause the loss of feeling in your feet, making it difficult to detect extreme temperatures and pain as easily, or readily, as someone who does not have diabetes. As a result, you could sustain a serious cut or wound and not even notice your foot is injured until an infection begins. Many diabetic foot problems can be prevented in some measure with improved blood sugar control and a strengthened immune system.
If you are among one of the millions of people in the United States with diabetes, it is important to visit your podiatrist for regular foot examinations in order to maintain healthy feet and a strong body.
Examine your Feet Daily
Careful inspection of your feet on a regular basis is one of the easiest, least expensive and most effective measures for preventing foot complications. By examining your feet daily, and after every injury, you are taking a crucial step to preventing serious foot problems. Noticeable changes, such as temperature, skin color, pain, or swelling may be warning signs for poor circulation or loss of sensation that could potentially lead to something more serious.
Annual examinations by your podiatrist are also vital for anyone with diabetes. A podiatrist can provide a more thorough exam and detect any signs of changes, such as broken skin or ulcers that can be detrimental to the health of your feet and body. Your podiatrist can also check for areas of high pressure or loss of blood circulation.
Clean Your Feet
With diabetes, it is important to keep your feet clean. Wash your feet daily with warm water and mild soap. After washing, make sure you dry your feet thoroughly, especially in-between the toes. You may also apply non-irritating moisturizer to prevent cracks and to keep your feet smooth.
Be sure to also avoid ingrown toenails, which can get infected, by keeping them trimmed neatly. If you are unable to cut your toenails safely, ask your podiatrist for professional assistance. And never attempt to cut your own bunions or corns as this can lead to infection, as well. Instead, remember to visit your podiatrist for safe and pain free removal.
To further protect your feet from harm, be sure to:
- Avoid smoking, as it reduces blood flow to your feet
- Buy comfortable shoes that are not too tight or too loose
- Wear clean, dry socks and change them everyday
- Never walk barefoot in order to protect your feet from harmful objects
Diabetes is serious, especially when your feet are involved. Early detection and simple care are just a few things that can be done to control and prevent complications as they arise.
Your podiatrist plays a critical role in the prevention and management of complications of the foot in diabetics. Talk to your podiatrist today to see what you can do now to keep your feet safe, strong, and healthy.
Diabetes and the Nervous System
According to the American Diabetes Association, about 15.7 million people (5.9 percent of the United States population) have diabetes. Nervous system damage (also called neuropathy) affects about 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes and is a major complication that may cause diabetics to lose feeling in their feet or hands.
Foot problems are a big risk in diabetics. Diabetics must constantly monitor their feet or face severe consequences, including amputation. With a diabetic foot, a wound as small as a blister from wearing a shoe that's too tight can cause a lot of damage. Diabetes decreases blood flow, so injuries are slow to heal. When your wound is not healing, it's at risk for infection. As a diabetic, your infections spread quickly. If you have diabetes, you should inspect your feet every day. Look for puncture wounds, bruises, pressure areas, redness, warmth, blisters, ulcers, scratches, cuts and nail problems. Get someone to help you, or use a mirror.
When your feet become numb, they are at risk for becoming deformed. One way this happens is through ulcers. Open sores may become infected. Another way is the bone condition Charcot (pronounced "sharko") foot. This is one of the most serious foot problems you can face. It warps the shape of your foot when your bones fracture and disintegrate, and yet you continue to walk on it because it doesn't hurt. Diabetic foot ulcers and early phases of Charcot fractures can be treated with a total contact cast.
The shape of your foot molds the cast. It lets your ulcer heal by distributing weight and relieving pressure. If you have Charcot foot, the cast controls your foot's movement and supports its contours if you don't put any weight on it. To use a total contact cast, you need good blood flow in your foot. The cast is changed every week or two until your foot heals. A custom-walking boot is another way to treat your Charcot foot. It supports the foot until all the swelling goes down, which can take as long as a year. You should keep from putting your weight on the Charcot foot. Surgery is considered if your deformity is too severe for a brace or shoe.