Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide. One of the most common complications of diabetes is foot problems, which can lead to serious complications if left untreated. As podiatrists, we frequently see and manage patients with diabetes-related foot problems. Here’s what you need to know to manage your diabetes and care for your feet:
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. There are two main types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes: This type of diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes require insulin injections or an insulin pump to manage their blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes: This type of diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin, or the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes is often managed with diet, exercise, and medication.
Foot Problems in Diabetes
People with diabetes are at increased risk for foot problems because high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves and blood vessels in the feet. This can cause:
Nerve damage (neuropathy): Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the feet and legs.
Poor circulation: Reduced blood flow to the feet can lead to slow healing of cuts or sores, and increase the risk of infection.
Foot deformities: High pressure areas can cause calluses or corns, which can develop into foot ulcers over time.
Infection: People with diabetes are at increased risk for infections, which can spread quickly and be difficult to treat.
To manage diabetes and prevent foot problems, it is important to:
Control blood sugar levels: This can help prevent or delay the onset of diabetes-related complications, including foot problems.
Check your feet daily: Inspect your feet every day for cuts, blisters, or other signs of injury.
Wear proper footwear: Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes with supportive insoles and avoid going barefoot.
Practice good foot hygiene: Keep your feet clean and dry, and apply moisturizer to prevent dry skin.
Get regular foot check-ups: See a podiatrist at least once a year for a comprehensive neurovascular assessment.
If you develop a foot problem, it is important to seek prompt treatment from a podiatrist. Treatment may include:
Wound care: Cleaning and dressing the wound to promote healing and prevent infection.
Offloading: Reducing pressure on the affected area to promote healing.
Antibiotics: Seeking antibiotics from your general practitioner to treat or prevent infection.
Surgery: In severe cases, recommendation for surgery may be necessary to repair or remove damaged tissue.