Whether you are a newly diagnosed diabetic or have been managing the disease for years, it is imperative that you are evaluated by a podiatrist. Periodic foot care and evaluation are critical for preventing complications which can lead to amputation. Diabetes can affect the body in numerous ways. Elevated or uncontrolled blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels which affect vital organs such as the heart and kidneys, lead to vision problems (diabetic retinopathy) and nerve problems (peripheral neuropathy).
Diabetics are at a higher risk for developing atherosclerosis which is the most common cause of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Arteries in the legs and feet can become blocked. This can lead to pain in the legs while walking or at rest as well as temperature and color change in the feet and toes. Without proper blood flow, wounds can be slow to heal or not heal at all. Gangrene, tissue death from a lack of blood supply, can develop. The tissue becomes black, red, swollen, painful and may require amputation.
Increased levels of sugar in the bloodstream damage nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord, leading to tingling, burning and numbness in the feet and hands. Nerve damage can also lead to weakness and loss of balance. Peripheral neuropathy is the number one risk factor for foot ulceration in the diabetic population. For patients who have lost sensation in the feet, they may develop an open wound and not know it. If left untreated, the wound may become infected requiring advanced wound care, long term antibiotics and possible surgery.
During a diabetic foot exam, skin assessment as well as identifying bony deformities in the feet, are just as important as evaluating blood flow and sensation. Corns and calluses develop on the feet where there is an increase in pressure. Over time, if left untreated, these skin lesions can become thick and cracked leading to an open wound. Bony prominences resulting from bunions and hammertoes are susceptible to friction from tight fitting shoes which can lead to corns, blisters and open sores. Proper shoe gear including a wide deep toe box to accommodate deformities as well as offloading problem areas will prevent complications.
At the end of the day, good blood sugar control is paramount. Exercise, diet and regular follow up with your primary care provider or endocrinologist will place you on the right path. The better control you have, the lower the risk for complications.
If you have been newly diagnosed or have a history of diabetes and have not been evaluated by a podiatrist, please call the office at 856-599-0133.