Diabetes is a disease affecting nearly 26 million people in the United States alone. Caused by heightened levels of sugar in the blood, diabetes requires lifelong care and monitoring to prevent the most serious of complications and maintain a comfortable standard of living. While it is well-known diabetes requires the regular medical attention of a primary care doctor, perhaps lesser known is what a critical role in your health a podiatrist will play. If you have diabetes, or are at risk for diabetes, a podiatrist will be a critical asset to you throughout your life, and may be able to help you avoid or minimize the seriousness of some of the most serious complications, which can include diabetic neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease, and even lower limb amputation. As with any health issue, education is key.
Common Foot Problems With Diabetes
Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk of medical issues related to their feet than patients without. These health issues include but are not limited to the following:
Nerve damage as a result of diabetes can often cause discomfort, and more commonly contributes to the loss of feeling and the ability to feel pain. This is particularly problematic as it can lead a person to become more prone to infection if sores or injuries go unnoticed because of the inability to feel.
- Changes in the skin
Diabetes patients often suffer from excessively dry skin, which can crack or begin to flake and peel. Calluses and foot ulcers are also very common for people with diabetes. Each of these skin issues make the person more prone to infection, which can quickly escalate to more serious complications.
- Poor circulation
Poor circulation inhibits the ability to heal and to fight off infection. When high glucose levels have been present for a long time in the body, blood vessels can become damaged and narrowed, resulting in the poor flow of blood throughout the feet and lower body.
A high number of people with diabetes will need to have one or more lower limbs amputated as a result of diabetic complications. More than 65,000 lower limb amputations are performed annually as a result of diabetic complications. While this is an unfortunately high number, the good news is most amputations are preventable with proper and regular care.
How You Can Avoid Complications
The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends you take the following actions to avoid complications from diabetes.
- Inspect your feet regularly
It is very important to catch any issues early on. Screening your feet on a daily basis for cuts, bruises, sores, and changes to your toe nails will be important for your health and to stop a problem from progressing. If you are unable to see your feet, ask for the help of a partner or family member.
- Keep your feet protected in thick, soft socks, and do not go barefoot
Wearing thick soft socks will decrease the likelihood of developing blisters and other sores on your feet. It is advised to always wear shoes and never go barefoot, even when at home, as any cuts or open sores could quickly lead to an infection.
- Make sure shoes fit properly
Properly fitted shoes should provide the necessary support, stability and relief of pressure on the foot to help prevent the formation of ulcers, the breakdown of the skin, and help decrease inflammation. In the case of deformities, proper shoes will also help with pain relief and sensitivity. In some cases, prescription footwear may be required.
Exercise is a very important aspect of managing your diabetes. Regular exercise will help lower blood sugar levels naturally. Even light exercises, such as walking, will help make a positive difference. As always, be sure to wear appropriate shoes.
- Have regular check-ups with a podiatrist
It is recommended to have a minimum of two appointments each year with a podiatrist to have your feet examined. By visiting a podiatrist, diabetes patients reduce the risk of lower limb amputation by as much as 85 percent. Scheduling an appointment with a podiatrist is a small effort that can make a huge impact on your overall health and wellness.
At Mill Creek Foot & Ankle Clinic, we understand the importance of foot health for our patients with diabetes. Contact us today at (425)482-6663 to set an appointment with our podiatrist, Dr. Hall, and let us be your partner in foot health.
Sources: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/foot-complications/?referrer=https://www.google.com/ http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/diabetic-foot/Pages/Shoes-and-Orthotics-for-Diabetics.aspx http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/foot-problems#2 http://www.apma.org/Learn/FootHealth.cfm?ItemNumber=980