- Why are people with diabetes at more risk for foot complications?
People with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing both arterial disease, which reduces blood flow to the feet, as well as, neurological disease, which makes one less able to feel an injury or pressure on the skin of the feet. In combination, these problems make it easier for people with diabetes to develop ulcers (open sores) and infections in the feet. Additionally, diabetes impacts the body’s ability to fight infection. It is not uncommon for people with diabetes to be unaware of a foot injury until an infection develops. If an infection is not treated, this may lead to amputation of the affected foot or leg. Diabetes is the most common condition leading to foot and leg amputation.
- What are some of the most common foot conditions impacting people with diabetes?
There are four foot conditions that individuals with diabetes are more likely to experience. The first, neuropathy or nerve damage can both cause pain as well as block the ability to feel pain, heat or cold. A foot injury or breaks in the skin may go unnoticed until an infection occurs.
The second condition, skin changes such as cracking and peeling can happen because the nerves that control the oil and moisture in the feet do not work properly.
The third condition, calluses often build up quicker on the feet of people with diabetes. If the calluses are not trimmed they can become very thick, break down and develop into ulcers.
Ulcers are the fourth condition that individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing. Usually ulcers occur on the ball of the foot or the bottom of the big toe. Poorly fitting shoes can result in ulcers on the side of the foot. Not attending to ulcers can lead to infection which in turn can lead to amputation of the foot or leg.
- How can a Podiatrist help people with diabetes reduce their risk for foot complications?
Individuals with diabetes should get a foot exam from their health care provider at least twice a year. Even though most foot ulcers do not hurt, every ulcer (sore), blister, bruise, cut or area of redness should be examined by your health care provider as soon as possible. Ulcers that are not treated can become infected which can lead to amputation of the affected foot.
Nerve damage, that can cause the foot shape to change, may make one unaware of improperly fitted shoes. Your health care provider can help you with special therapeutic shoes or inserts that would prevent forcing deformed feet or toes into a shoe that causes calluses.
Have your care provider treat all calluses. Do not attempt to treat by yourself. Ask your health care provider to teach you the safest way, if he/she determines it is okay for you to trim your toe nails. Toenails that are not properly trimmed may cause foot Infection.
Be sure to check your feet each day. Carefully look at the top, sides, soles, heels and between your toes. Wash your feet every day with mild soap in lukewarm water. To avoid cracking of the skin, after bathing your feet, use skin lotion, petroleum jelly, lanolin or oil. Do not put lotion between your toes as infections can grow in moist areas. Exercise can help your circulation by stimulating blood flow in the legs and feet. Walk in shoes that fit properly and provide the necessary support. Do not walk if you have any open sores.
Sources and links for additional information: American Diabetes Association www.diabetes.org & National Institute of Health www.nih.org
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