Diabetes and Your Feet, What You May Not Know
So many of us take our feet for granted until they begin to hurt or we injure them. However, if you have diabetes, you need to pay close attention to your feet on a daily basis. To help you with this critical task, here are some things you may not know but that may help save your feet in the long run.
Complication affects the feet. One of the most common complications of diabetes is diabetic neuropathy, a nerve condition that usually affects the feet. Diabetic neuropathy develops because the presence of excess sugar in the blood vessels can eventually damage the vessel walls, which in turn interferes with the transport of nutrients to the nerves.
The resulting damage to the nerves can cause numbness, tingling, and/or pain in the extremities, especially the feet. The best way to avoid diabetic neuropathy is to maintain good control of your blood glucose levels.
The consequences of neglecting diabetic neuropathy can be severe. A recent study points out that a condition known as Charcot foot, which involves progressive deterioration of the joints and bones in the feet, is most commonly seen in people with diabetes who have advanced neuropathy. Complications of Charcot foot include bone infection (osteomyelitis), loss of function in the foot, inflamed joint membranes, fractures, and deformity of the foot.
Get your feet examined. You should examine your feet every day if you have diabetes. Check for signs of bruising, cuts, scrapes, corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, or any other abnormalities.
If it is difficult for you to check your own feet, then ask your spouse, partner, or other trusted individual to do it for you. You also can use a mirror to look at your own feet. In addition, your doctor should check your feet at least once a year.
Report changes. If your feet begin to change color or shape or if they become painful, or more or less sensitive to touch or temperature, report these changes to your healthcare provider.
Ask about special shoes. If you already have diabetic neuropathy in your feet, you may be eligible for special shoes from Medicare. Ask your healthcare provider if you qualify.
Exercise your feet. These exercises can be done while sitting! When you sit, put your feet up, rotate your ankles for several minutes, and wiggle your toes. Do these exercises two to three times a day.
Avoid walking barefoot. The risk of injuring your feet, especially if you already have some loss of sensation in your feet, is greatly magnified if you walk barefoot. Therefore, keep a pair of slippers or slip-on shoes next to your bed at night so you can slip them on when you get up. Never walk barefoot, even on the beach.
Everyone who had diabetes should take care of their feet on a daily basis. Why?
One reason is that people with diabetes are eight times more likely to undergo a foot or lower leg amputation than people without the disease. There is some good news, however. In 1996, the rate of foot and leg amputation among people with diabetes was 11.2 per 1,000 individuals, but that rate declined to 3.9 per 1,000 in 2008.
Don’t be a statistic. If you have diabetes, be sure to take care of your feet, and they will take care of you.
American Diabetes Association
Selles Dechent R et al. Role of the general surgeon in the early diagnosis and treatment of Charcot’ foot. Cirugia Espanola 2013 Nov 11: pii:S009-739X(13)00338-2