Every 20 seconds a limb is lost to diabetes. When you have diabetes, you are more at risk of having foot problems and complications. This typically happens due to nerve damage, or neuropathy, in the feet and toes.
When you have nerve damage in your feet, over time you lose the ability to feel pain. When this happens, an injury, or a small cut or wound on your foot or toes can go unnoticed. These small injuries can quickly turn into larger and more complicated problems like foot ulcers.
This is where podiatrists can help. Podiatrists are foot doctors who can help you protect and take care of your feet.
How does a podiatrist help people with diabetes?
A podiatrist is an important part of your diabetes health care team. Podiatrists are specifically trained to assess the nerve damage in your feet, identify your specific foot health risks, and help you come up with a treatment and prevention plan. Diabetes can impact your feet in a number of ways, and podiatrists help address those issues.
What foot problems can people with diabetes have?
If you have diabetes, there are a number of foot problems you may experience, including:
Nerve Damage - You may experience neuropathy (nerve damage) that can cause pain and numbness in your feet. Eventually, this can cause more serious problems, including the loss of feeling in your feet and toes. When this happens, an injury like a cut can go unnoticed.
Foot Ulcers - A foot ulcer is a wound that can occur on the foot and/or toes. The tissue on a part of the foot breaks down to create an open wound. These ulcers can grow larger and easily become infected. Treatment is lengthy and expensive. If not properly treated or cared for, they may require amputation.
Charcot Foot - When you have nerve damage in your feet, this can also cause weakening of the bones in your feet. When these bones weaken, they can fracture and result in foot deformities.
Amputations - When you get a foot ulcer or wound, sometimes the damage cannot be repaired. When this happens, you may require an amputation.
These are only some of the foot problems that you may experience as a complication of diabetes. A podiatrist can help you determine your specific risk factors and what to look out for.
What should I talk about with my podiatrist?
When you schedule an appointment with a podiatrist, be sure to go prepared with information on your medical history, as well as, a list of questions or concerns. Some things you may want to discuss with your doctor include:
Neuropathy: If you experience the symptoms of neuropathy, ask for a monofilament test or comprehensive testing for nerve damage. This will help you understand if you have nerve damage, what you need to do to keep it from spreading, and the problems associated with nerve damage.
Food Exams: Your podiatrist can show you how to conduct a foot exam at home, along with the things you need to look out for.
Temperature Monitoring: Temperature monitoring is clinically proven to prevent foot ulcers and amputations by upwards of 87%. Talk to your doctor about how continuous temperature monitoring using Siren Diabetic Socks can be incorporated into your treatment plan. The benefit of Siren Diabetic Socks is that not only do they provide a physical layer of protection for your feet, but they alert you to the first signs of an injury with a connected app.
Keeping your feet healthy: Talk with your podiatrist about what you can do each day to protect your feet.
Most diabetes sufferers have type 2 diabetes. (Only about five percent of people diagnosed with diabetes have type 1.)
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
A person with type 2 diabetes does not utilize insulin correctly. (Type 1 means you don’t make any insulin at all.) With type 2, your pancreas attempts to produce extra insulin, but over time it isn’t able to make enough of it to keep your blood glucose within normal levels. Over the long term, elevated levels of blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can lead to serious damage to various parts of the body, including your feet.
What are the Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes?
Risk factors for ending up with type 2 diabetes include a family history of the disease, being over age 45, not paying attention to your weight, and not being physically active. The statistics relating to type 2 diabetes are alarming.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that in 2015 30.3 million Americans were affected.
Approximately 25 percent of adults with diabetes are unaware that they have it.
84.1 million Americans with above normal blood glucose levels have a condition called pre-diabetes. Nine out of ten adults with pre-diabetes aren’t aware that they have it.
Take this Diabetes Risk Test from the American Diabetes Association to find out if you may be at risk for diabetes or pre-diabetes.
What Does Diabetes Have to do with My Feet?
Unfortunately, even if your diabetes is under control, manifestations of the disease can show up in your feet. Diabetes can lead to poor blood flow in your feet, causing swelling, numbness, and sores. Diabetic related foot problems, if left untreated can even lead to amputation. Below, you’ll find the main foot-related issues related to diabetes —
Nerve Damage (Diabetic Neuropathy)
Diabetes can damage the nerves in many parts of your body, including your legs and your feet. This means you will likely not feel cold, heat, or pain. This is problematic because if you don’t know that you have a sore or cut on your foot, you won’t be aware that your foot needs treatment. If left untreated, the sore or cut may become infected.
Approximately 10 percent of people with diabetes develop foot ulcers. Because the nerves in the foot are damaged, the foot muscles may not function properly. If the foot is misaligned, too much pressure may be placed on one area of the foot. This pressure combined with poor blood flow can cause ulcers to develop.
Blood Circulation Problems (Peripheral Arterial Disease)
Diabetes adversely affects blood flow. Without adequate blood flow, cuts, sores, and ulcers take longer to heal. The most severe development from a foot infection that will not heal is the death of tissue due to a lack of blood flow (gangrene).
How Should I Care for My Feet if I’m a Diabetic?
Most importantly, inspect your feet every day, and visit a podiatrist immediately if you get a foot injury. If you are unable to look at the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help. It’s essential that any injuries are caught and treated promptly. Seeing a podiatrist is vital to help prevent these problems and keep your feet in the best shape possible.
How Can a Podiatrist Help?
If you have diabetes, regular visits to your podiatrist are essential so that a complete foot exam can be carried out. A podiatrist should be part of your regular diabetes healthcare team. Here at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center, our podiatrists are trained to recognize and treat diabetes-related foot conditions. Seeing a podiatrist for foot care can reduce your chances of ever needing an amputation. So, don’t delay. Make an appointment with us today.