Diabetes is at epidemic proportions in the United States. We think that more than 30 million people in the country are living with the disease—at least 7 million of whom remain undiagnosed.
This systemic condition is linked with deterioration and damage throughout the body, including cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, eye damage, kidney failure, and more. But did you know that the feet are among the most vulnerable parts of your body if you have diabetes?
It’s true. And because you rely on your feet for nearly everything you do, having a diabetic foot care plan is extremely important for everyone living with this disease.
Why Diabetes Is So Dangerous For Feet
Diabetes throws a devastating 1-2 punch combination at your feet, one that can cause serious damage if you aren’t taking steps to protect yourself:
- Neuropathy. High levels of blood sugar in the bloodstream poison nerves and keep them from getting the oxygen and nutrients they need. Over time, the nerves break down and lose their ability to reliably communicate with the brain—ultimately resulting in numbness in the extremities.
- Poor circulation. Diabetes can also reduce the amount of circulation to your feet and toes. This means any injuries or wounds that you suffer in your feet will be slower to heal, and your immune system isn’t going to be able to fight off germs as efficiently.
Each of these conditions are problematic enough on their own, but in combination they are extremely dangerous. In short, you might not feel or notice an injury until it’s too late to reverse an infection.
Common Diabetic Foot Complications
In addition to peripheral neuropathy and poor circulation—which we covered in the section above—some of the long-term problems that can develop for people with diabetes include:
- Chronic foot wounds. Here’s a sad but true story: Dr. Tenenboym used to perform 3-4 amputations per week on people with untreated, infected foot wounds related to their diabetes. The five-year survival rate after an amputation is, by some estimates, less than half.
- Charcot foot deformity. Bones can become brittle and prone to cracking with diabetes, and if your neuropathy is severe you might not even notice this while it’s occurring. Continue to walk on them, and bones crumble further, leading to significant deformity in your foot shape. Often this leads to severe disability and, ultimately, amputation.
- Corns and calluses. Neuropathy may also prevent you from being able to tell when your shoes are too tight or your skin is becoming irritated. In addition to being unsightly, corns and calluses can develop into wounds if not properly addressed.
- Dry skin. Due to poor circulation, people with diabetes frequently struggle with skin that becomes dry, scaly, and even cracked or fissured. In addition to being unsightly and uncomfortable, these breaks in skin present opportunities for infection.
In addition, virtually all foot and ankle problems—not just corns and calluses and cracked skin, but also bunions, ingrown toenails, and more—are much more serious when diabetes is involved. They are more likely to ultimately result in wounds, infections, and other complications that could threaten your health—or life.
Diabetic Foot Care Services
We strongly encourage all people with diabetes to schedule an appointment with their foot doctor at least once per year, even if they have no history of foot problems.
Many complications (including neuropathy and poor circulation) can often be detected by a physician long before symptoms manifest—and by the time you notice problems, much of the damage may be difficult or impossible to reverse.
At Precision Foot and Ankle, we provide a full range of both preventative care and treatments for people with diabetes, including:
- Physical examinations and diagnostic testing for diabetic foot complications, such as nerve function and circulation. This includes both Smart-ABI and doppler waveform testing, a non-invasive vascular test that uses ultrasound waveforms to screen for signs of peripheral vascular disease. Identifying PVD early can help you take steps to keep it from getting worse and avoid developing wounds in the first place.
- Advanced diabetic wound care for any existing ulcers or wounds you may have on your feet. This is an emergency—and we’ll do everything we can to see you within 24 hours of your call. We go above and beyond what most other podiatry practices can do in this area, with advanced treatment options like hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Unna boots, stem cells, and more. For more information please read this page.
- Care for any foot problems you may have in a safe, sterile environment under professional guidance. That includes everything from cutting your toenails to removing a corn to fixing your bunion or hammertoe.
- Diabetic shoes. These come in all kinds of fashionable styles, but with features designed to protect diabetic feet—including extra depth to accommodate orthotics, and even seamless interiors. They are highly recommended as one of the best ways to prevent the development of wounds.
At Precision Foot & Ankle, we’ll always do everything in our power to keep our diabetic patients healthy and on their feet! But that also means you should be examining your feet carefully every day, protecting them from damage, and coming back for your annual visit every year!
To schedule an appointment with us, please call the office today at (727) 399-7167.