Diabetes is the inability to manufacture or properly use insulin. It impairs the body’s ability to convert sugars, starches, and other foods into energy. The long-term effects of elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can lead to serious damage to the eyes, heart, kidney, nerves, and feet. Diabetes affects the lives of more than 28 million people in the United States and nearly seven million do not even know they have the disease yet. Of the more than 28 million people, about half will develop neuropathy, a loss of feeling in the lower extremities. This nerve damage means an open sore or injury on the foot may go unnoticed until it becomes infected, which can eventually lead to the need for partial or full amputation of the foot or lower leg. While the risk of foot complications may be frightening, there are many ways to outsmart diabetes by having your feet checked regularly by a podiatrist. Podiatrists are the most qualified doctors to care for your feet, based on their education, training, and experience. When you add a podiatrist to your health-care team, he or she can provide you with important information so you are able to better manage the effects of diabetes on your feet.
While there is no cure for diabetes, there is hope. With proper diet, exercise, medical care, and careful management at home, a person with diabetes can avoid the most serious complications and enjoy a full and active life. Your partnership with our podiatrist will play a key role in helping you manage diabetes successfully and avoid foot-related complications. Because diabetes is a disease affecting many parts of the body, successful management requires a team approach. Including a podiatrist in your diabetes, care can reduce the risk of lower limb amputation up to 85 percent and lowers the risk of hospitalization by 24 percent. More than 65,000 lower limbs are amputated annually due to complications from diabetes. After an amputation, the chance of another amputation within three to five years is as high as 50 percent. The keys to amputation prevention are early recognition and regular foot screenings performed by a podiatrist, the foot and ankle expert.
Diabetes warning signs include:
- Skin color changes
- Swelling of the foot or ankle
- Numbness in the feet or toes
- Pain in the legs
- Open sores on the feet that are slow to heal
- Ingrown and fungal toenails
- Bleeding corns and calluses
- Dry cracks in the skin, especially around the heel
If you have diabetes, follow these foot care tips:
- Inspect feet daily. Check your feet and toes every day for cuts, bruises, sores, or changes to the toenails, such as thickening or discoloration.
- Wear thick, soft socks. Avoid socks with seams, which could rub and cause blisters or other skin injuries.
- Exercise. Walking can keep weight down and improve circulation. Be sure to wear appropriate athletic shoes when exercising.
- Discuss with our podiatrist regarding purchase of new shoes, which are properly measured and fitted as foot size and shape may change over time.
- Do not go barefoot. Do not go without shoes, even in your own home. The risk of cuts and infection is too great for those with diabetes.
- Never try to remove calluses, corns, or warts by yourself. Over-the-counter products can burn the skin and cause irreparable damage to the foot for people with diabetes.
Regular checkups by our podiatrist are the best way to ensure that your feet remain healthy.