If you have diabetes, there are many different implications for your physical health and wellbeing, including heart disease, kidney disease, pancreas malfunction, and vision problems (even blindness!). This is obviously a serious medical issue, but it’s important not to overlook the way the disease affects the health of your feet.
At Sunshein Podiatry, we perform comprehensive foot care services, but diabetic foot care is possibly the most important one we provide. Left unchecked, diabetes can create dangerous situations. Managing the disease and staying vigilant towards your foot health may help you avoid a lower limb amputation, and possibly even save your life!
Problems in Diabetic Feet
If you experience numbness, burning, or tingling in your feet, then you may have diabetic neuropathy. Neuropathy is essentially nerve damage that leads to signals either not being transmitted to your brain, or transmitted incorrectly. This is caused by elevated blood sugar levels in the bloodstream, which means it is quite common for individuals who have diabetes.
A major concern with this particular condition is that you might sustain a wound and be unaware of it. Cuts, scrapes, and other such issues can break down over time and place you at heightened risk for diabetic foot ulcers and infections.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is another condition related to diabetes, one that reduces your blood circulation. Restricted blood flow has negative consequences for your body’s ability to heal itself and fight off infections.
Both neuropathy and PAD play a role in a serious medical issue known as Charcot foot. This condition is caused by brittle bones—since they have not been receiving adequate nourishment—that fracture and disintegrate. Combined with neuropathy, you will not be aware of this condition and will continue walking as usual, which leads to increased damage. Charcot foot often results in severely deformed feet and can greatly increase the risk for both infection and amputation.
Diabetic Foot Care Planning
Charcot foot and diabetic foot ulcers are two examples of very serious medical problems that can develop on account of diabetes. The best way to reduce the risk of issues like these is to have a diabetic foot care plan in place. This is comprised of various pillars, but one of the most valuable is performing a diabetic foot self-exam every day.
Little problems can escalate into severe issues, but if you are able to catch them early, you can derail their progress. When neuropathy (nerve damage) is present, and you are unable to feel things like a tiny cut or scrape, it will go untreated and infection can set, which could ultimately lead to an emergency room visit.
So if you are unable to feel issues when they develop, how can you take care of them at early, less-dangerous stages? This is where a daily foot check comes into play.
Pillars of a Diabetic Foot Care Plan
Inspecting your feet every day is the best way to catch issues at their earliest, most treatable stages. To increase the odds that you develop a routine you can stick with, inspect your feet at the same time every day. For many patients, at night (before going to bed) works quite well. Carefully inspect all foot surfaces, including the areas between your toes. In the event you are unable to see the bottoms of your feet, either use a mirror or ask a loved one to help. If you discover anything out of the ordinary, see us as soon as possible.
Always wearing proper footwear is another important pillar of smart diabetic foot care. Diabetic footwear is used to achieve the following objectives:
- Relieve excessive pressure. Skin breakdown and foot ulcers can develop in areas of the feet that are subjected to excessive pressure. This contributes to an increased risk for the dangerous infections we’ve previously noted. As such, diabetic footwear is worn to reduce the possibility of an ulcer developing.
- Reduce shear and shock. Whereas shock refers to vertical forces placed upon a foot with impact, shear is horizontal friction when a foot slides in a shoe. Both of these physical forces stress the feet in different ways, but they each can result in damaged tissue and other issues that create unsafe conditions.
- Support, accommodate, and stabilize deformities. Conditions like hammertoes, Charcot foot, and limbs that have been amputated need to be accommodated correctly to reduce the risk of further damage.
- Restrict motion in joints. Limiting the motion of various joints can relieve pain, decrease inflammation and stabilize the foot as a whole, all of which help prevent further issues.
Having the correct footwear—both diabetic shoes and diabetic socks—is essential, but remember that they only will help if you wear them. To that end, always wear socks and shoes, even when you are at home. Diabetic neuropathy means you could stub a toe or step on something and not be aware of it, which could lead to the development of a diabetic foot ulcer.
When peripheral neuropathy, wounds, or ulcers are in need of treatment, the goal is to relieve pain and encourage healing in as safe and effective a way as possible. We will develop a proper plan on a case-by-case basis, which may incorporate methods such as medication and laser therapy.
Professional Diabetic Foot Care
If you have diabetes, you need to have a diabetic foot care plan in place. Not sure how to do this? It’s actually quite easy – just come see us here at Sunshein Podiatry. Our medical specialists will ensure you have a plan in place to keep your feet as safe as possible. For more information—or to request an appointment—simply give us a call at (937) 435-7477.