How Diabetes Affects Your Feet
It is estimated that 37.3 million Americans have diabetes. If you have this condition, too much glucose in the body system can cause serious health complications. The disease affects many major organs, including the nerves, kidneys, eyes, heart, and blood vessels. More importantly, it can cause severe foot problems.
How Can Diabetes Affect Your Feet?
If you have diabetes, you are prone to foot problems due to extended periods of high blood sugar. Recent studies show that diabetes is responsible for over 50% of all foot amputations in the US.
There are two main foot problems that people with diabetes often experience:
If you have had diabetes for a long time, it can damage the nerves, leading to numbness in the feet. As a result, you may not feel sensations in your extremities. In other words, you cannot feel soreness, irritation, or infection on your feet. Consequently, you are at a higher risk of sores, cuts, and blisters.
Depending on the severity of the nerve damage, signs of diabetic neuropathy range from numbness and pain in your legs to more severe problems with the urinary tract and digestive system. While the symptoms can be mild to some people, they can be painful and disabling to others.
The common symptoms to expect include:
- Sharp pain or cramps
- Burning sensation or tingling
- Numbness or decreased ability to feel pain or temperature changes
- Serious foot problems, such as infections, joint pain, and ulcers
Sometimes, the muscles of your feet may not work properly since they may be damaged. As a result, your foot may not align properly, leading to walking difficulties.
If you don’t seek help urgently, gangrene and ulcers may worsen. In such a case, the podiatrist may recommend amputation.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Sometimes, diabetes can lead to changes in your blood vessels, including arteries, a condition known as peripheral vascular disease. If you develop this condition, fatty deposits block essential blood vessels beyond the heart and brain.
On most occasions, the condition affects blood vessels leading from and to the extremities, mainly the feet and arms. Hence, blood flow to these parts is significantly reduced. With reduced blood flow to the feet, you experience various symptoms, including:
- Wounds that heal slowly
In case of an infection, you may experience fever, redness, chills, shock, and shaking. If you notice any of these symptoms, you need to seek emergency treatment.
Peripheral vascular disease and diabetic neuropathy are serious conditions that should be monitored closely. If not treated, both can cause complications that can change your life completely.
These complications include:
- Foot deformities
- Charcot’s foot is a condition that alters the shape of your feet
- Wounds that take long to heal or don’t heal at all
- Infections such as bone infections, skin infections, and abscesses
- Gangrene is a severe condition that causes tissue death.
If you seek treatment right away, the doctor can reverse some of these complications, such as infections. However, others, such as gangrene, lead to permanent tissue death. The only solution is amputation.
When Should You See Us?
If you have diabetes, you need to see a doctor regularly as part of routine care. However, urgent medical attention is necessary if you notice the following changes:
- Temperature changes in one or both feet
- Signs of infection
- Swelling in the ankle or foot
- Changes in skin color in one or both feet
- Fungal infection or athlete’s foot
- Persistent sores on the foot
- Cracked and dry skin on your foot
- In-growing toenails
How Should You Care for Your Feet if You Have Diabetes?
If you visit a podiatrist today, they can help you create a diabetes self-care plan. You can use these tips to help take good care of your feet and prevent infections and wounds.
- Hygiene– You should wash your feet with warm water and soap every day. However, you need to make sure the water is warm and not hot. After drying your feet, you can apply talcum powder between the toes to prevent an infection.
- Smoothing– If you notice thick patches of calluses or corns on your feet, you should remove them gently. If you aren’t sure how to go about it, ask a podiatrist how you can safely remove them without causing injuries.
- Be Cautious When Trimming Your Toenails– If you have diabetes, trimming toenails is an important part of foot care. However, you should do it gently. You need to trim them straight across without cutting them into corners.
- Always Be on the Lookout– Sometimes, foot problems are painless, especially if the nerves are badly damaged. Thus, you need to check your feet every day to help catch problems before they worsen.
- Wear Shoes– If you have diabetes, you should wear shoes and socks all the time, even when you are indoors. This helps prevent injuries. Also, wearing socks helps prevent blisters and sores.
Every time you visit a doctor, you should ask them to check your feet for any abnormalities. Also, remind them to check for pulses and feelings in your feet.
The Bottom Line
No matter if you need to see us for an initial consultation or it’s time for your next visit to our office, you can find the care and treatment you need right here at McVay Foot and Ankle. Our Colorado Springs practice provides comprehensive foot care services—including those needed when diabetes is in the picture—so contact us today by calling (719) 266-5000.