About 130,000 of the 200,000 foot amputations in the United States each year are due to diabetes complications. Women and men with diabetes also have a 1 in 10 chance of developing stubborn foot ulcers and a 50% chance of debilitating foot pain related to diabetes.
Francine Rhinehart, DPM, is an expert podiatrist in Dallas, Texas, specializing in diabetic foot care. She encourages everyone with diabetes to pay special attention to their feet and visit their podiatrist regularly.
Why should you be aware of foot complications of diabetes? Following is a brief explanation of how high blood sugar affects your feet.
Diabetes destroys blood vessels
When you have uncontrolled, high levels of blood sugar over long time periods, the excess sugar can damage the small blood vessels in your circulatory system. The blood vessels in your extremities, particularly your feet, are extra vulnerable.
Uncontrolled blood glucose can result in peripheral artery disease (PAD). The reduced blood circulation that results from PAD means wounds on your feet are slow to heal. Non-healing wounds heighten the risk of infection and even amputation.
The nerves in your extremities are also at risk. Peripheral neuropathy is a form of diabetic nerve damage that keeps you from feeling sensations affecting your feet. That can make it hard to tell when you’ve injured your toe or foot. And wounds that go unattended may create complications.
When you have PAD and neuropathy, your feet feel numb or tingly, or you experience sharp stabs of pain for no reason. Amid those chronic sensations, it can be easy to miss an injury.
Neuropathy combined with vascular issues spells disaster for anyone with diabetes. An infected wound can turn gangrenous seemingly without warning because your body’s natural warning system — pain — is shut down or blunted.
Take charge of your feet
The No. 1 way to keep your feet healthy is strictly controlling your blood sugar.
In addition to embracing a whole-food diet and doctor-cleared exercise, that may mean taking oral medications to help reduce insulin resistance and improve natural insulin levels or injecting insulin into your body to manage the amount of glucose in your blood after and between meals.
Also, pay close attention to your toes and feet. Do a daily check of the sides, bottom, and tops of your feet and your heels and toes. Look for signs of irritation or unhealed sores or blisters.
Wash your feet daily using warm, soapy water. Dry carefully between all of your toes to prevent fungal infections. Clip your toenails straight across, and moisturize your feet with a simple foot cream to prevent cracks in the skin.
Walking several times a day keeps your blood sugar levels under control and improves circulation in your legs and feet. A regular walking program can stop diabetic neuropathy from developing or slow its progress.
Splurge on shoes
Ditch the high heels and narrow boxes and invest in foot-friendly footwear. Select shoes and sneakers that are cushioned, roomy at the toe box, flat, and a good fit. Always wear socks with your shoes to cut down on the friction that causes blisters.
Be careful with sandals, as they may not protect your feet from potential damage.
When you have diabetes, your feet need extra care and attention to stay healthy. Contact our office for diabetic foot care at 469-754-8960 or book an appointment online today.