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.
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.
Looking For More Info? Download Our Guide!
Exercise is just one component of living a healthy lifestyle despite your peripheral neuropathy. You also want to make sure you maintain a healthy diet, and of course work closely with your medical team (including the folks here at Sunshein Podiatry Associates) to make sure you get the advanced treatments you need.
To help you with the “at home” component, we’ve written a brief downloadable guide on health and wellness. Keep it on your phone or print it out to keep those diet and exercise guidelines easily accessible and top of mind!