Diabetes and Your Feet
Diabetes is a lifelong chronic disease that is caused by high levels of sugar in the blood. It can also decrease your body's ability to fight off infections, which is especially harmful in your feet. When diabetes is not properly controlled, damage can occur to the organs and impairment of the immune system is also likely to occur.
With damage to your nervous system, you may not be able to feel your feet properly. Normal sweat secretion and oil production that lubricates the skin of the foot is impaired, which can lead to an abnormal pressure on the skin, bones, and joints of the foot during walking and other activities. This can even lead to the breakdown of the skin of the foot, which often causes sores to develop. If you have diabetes, it is important to prevent foot problems before they occur, recognize problems early, and seek the right treatment when a problem does happen.
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.
Diabetic Foot Care: The Key to Good Health
Diabetic foot care is crucial to maintaining healthy feet. Without proper foot care a number of problems can occur, the most extreme of which is amputation. Keeping your feet in the best condition possible is easy to do, it just takes a little extra dedication.
Make Daily Checks a Habit
Nerve damage might make it hard to feel a problem, so seeing with your eyes is crucial to maintaining foot health. Start a daily routine where you thoroughly check your feet for any abnormalities. Since you should be washing your feet every day, a good time to do your check is right after your shower or bath. Look in all the nooks and crannies of your feet including your ankles and in between your toes. Search for things such as dry or cracked skin, blisters, calluses, ingrown toenails, or open sores. If you notice that you have any of these things, call our office right away.
Instead of fixing a problem that exists, it is a good idea to avoid an issue in the first place. You can do this by keeping your feet groomed and in good condition. Cut your toenails straight across to avoid ingrown toenails. Moisturize your feet to avoid dryness and cracking (avoid the areas between the toes). You should never keep your feet in wet, sweaty socks so always be sure to have an extra pair on hand.
If you are engaging in physical activity, wear proper footwear and never exercise on uneven ground. Always wear shoes or socks on your feet no matter where you are, and check inside your shoes for sharp objects that may have fallen inside.
Peripheral Neuropathy and Ulcers
Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves resulting in loss of sensation. This is why, as a patient with diabetes, you must be very diligent about checking your feet daily. If you are not able to feel the sensation of pain, you might miss the development of an ulcer. An ulcer is the breaking down of the skin which exposes the tissue underneath. They can be treated and prevented, but once an infection sets in it can be very difficult to eradicate. If your ulcer does get infected, it can be treated with antibiotics and drained, but it can also worsen and get to the point where amputation is the only option.
Peripheral Neuropathy (Numb Feet)
We depend on our nerves for many things. When they don’t function properly, our normal activities and health can be affected. Peripheral neuropathy is a condition often associated with diabetes. If you suffer from diabetes you are at a higher risk of developing nerve damage, but with some extra care you can manage this condition.What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage that affects mainly the limbs (arms, hands, legs, and feet). The damage to the nerves causes you to lose sensation, so you don’t feel things the way others do. It can also cause tingling, numbness, and pain. Diabetics may find that they experience this problem more than most people. There are other causes of peripheral neuropathy as well, including certain medications, arthritis, old age, heredity, alcoholism, injury, and neurological disorders. If you are able to address the root cause, you might be able to ease the symptoms.Treatment and Prevention of Peripheral Neuropathy
Unfortunately, there is no actual treatment for peripheral neuropathy. The treatment lies in fixing the underlying problem, for example, managing your diabetes or healing from your injury. There are some medications you can take to bring back some feeling or help lessen the pain and burning, but always consult with a doctor before taking anything. Some people benefit from TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) or custom-made orthotics. Ultimately, the most effective way to “treat” peripheral neuropathy is to avoid it in the first place. Take good care of yourself and your feet and you’ll have less cause to worry about losing feeling in your limbs.Home Care
If you already suffer from nerve damage you should be taking good care of your feet. Since you are unable to feel a problem, you need to be able to see if something is out of the ordinary. Check your feet every day for any wounds that may be developing. Be thorough during this inspection, because sometimes blisters can form in between the toes or behind the ankles. If you need assistance, ask a friend or family member to help, or use a small mirror to look in hard to reach places. Having a wound left untreated on your foot could cause massive issues down the road. You could end up with an ulcer or an infection that could lead to a foot amputation. It is crucial to make these daily checks a part of your routine.When Should You Seek Medical Attention?
Diabetics should already be under the care of a podiatrist for check-ups every few months. Don’t just assume this problem will go away on its own. A doctor can prescribe medications or a custom-made orthotic that will help you with your pain. Being under a podiatrist’s care is the responsible thing to do for managing your diabetes and your peripheral neuropathy. Coastal Podiatry, LLC in Mt. Pleasant, SC is proud to be a part of the team that keeps you and your feet healthy and happy.
Diabetes is a complex disease - there’s a lot to think about each day. Managing the disease and foot health, preventing ulcers from forming, and controlling blood sugar are just a few of the things that must be considered. The good news is that diabetes is very controllable. The even better news is that you don’t have to do it alone. The expert staff at Coastal Podiatry, LLC is here to help.
What Are Diabetic Foot Ulcers
A foot ulcer occurs when an open wound has eroded so much that you can see the tissue underneath. The feet are prone to this because they are in contact with things that rub against them, such as the ground and your shoes. When someone without diabetes injures their foot, they care of it by cleaning it and bandaging it. However, a person with diabetes might not even know they got injured in the first place. The reason for this is called peripheral neuropathy, which damages the nerves so much that loss of sensation occurs.
If you are not able to feel pain you might miss an injury that could have been treated easily. This is why daily foot checks are so crucial. Ulcers can become infected very easily, and if they do not heal amputation may be necessary.
How Do You Prevent a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?
If you have diabetes, it is very important to protect your feet. Prevention is the first line of defense, and that means you are the front line. One of the best ways to prevent foot ulcers is to check your feet daily. Thoroughly check in all the crevices of your feet, including between your toes and behind your ankles. If you are unable to see the entire foot, have a partner help you or use a small mirror for guidance. Any changes or abnormalities should be addressed right away in our office.
Remember to keep your feet clean and groomed (nails cut, moisturized, etc.). Never go barefoot, even if you are just at home--wear socks or slippers, or you could step on something sharp and not even feel it. Finally, invest in a good pair of shoes that allows your toes plenty of space to wiggle.
How Do You Treat a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?
If you see that an ulcer is forming, take care of it right away. Cover it with a sterile bandage and get medical attention. Our podiatrists will be able to tell if it is infected, and if surrounding tissue needs to be removed. They can also prescribe antibiotics or special orthopedic shoes. In certain extreme cases, surgery may be required to widen the arteries so that blood can easily flow to the feet. In even more extreme cases, where infection has spread to surrounding areas, amputation may be the only option.