How Diabetes Affects Your Feet
Every November is National Diabetes Month (sponsored by the American Diabetes Association). The purpose behind this designation is to raise awareness about diabetes risk factors and encourage people to make smart lifestyle decisions.
We want you to be as healthy as possible. Period. When you are, you have the ability to do the things in life you actually want to do.
Now, your feet play an instrumental role in allowing you to participate in favorite activities. They keep you mobile and independent. As such, it’s extremely concerning when diabetes puts your feet at risk for serious medical complications.
Two major conditions individuals who have this disease need to be aware of are Charcot foot and diabetic ulcers.
Charcot is condition in diabetics which causes bones to weaken, leading to pathologic fractures and dislocation of joints in the foot. Diabetes can cause damage to the nerve, also known as neuropathy, wherein people may not be able to sense a painful stimulus. Neuropathy can also have an effect on the blood flow to the bones. In Charcot, there is increased blood flow to the bone which causes it to weaken and make it more susceptible to injury. Progressive and permanent damage to the bone and joints can occur with normal daily activities without you even knowing it!
Factoring all of that together, it means a diabetic individual can break bones in the foot, be completely unaware of it, and continue walking as he or she normally would – which then causes further damage. This cycle can repeat until the foot is severely misshapen and potentially needs to be amputated.
Even more concerning than Charcot foot—which is clearly a very serious matter—is the potential for diabetic foot ulcers.
Diabetic ulcers are essentially wounds that do not heal. Nerve damage certainly plays a role in this, but so too does the fact diabetes compromises the body’s immune system. A normally-functioning immune system is able to both fight off infections and repair damage in our body tissues.
Sure, that sounds bad, but why is this such a serious situation?
When wounds don’t close, they create an entryway into the body for microbial (very small) contaminants. Now, a healthy immune system can fight an infection for at least a certain amount of time, but this is not the case for a compromised one. Further, the slow-to-nonexistent healing time means the wound can continue to break down as the situation worsens, thereby increasing infection risk.
Diabetic ulcers are a leading cause of lower limb amputation and have a high mortality rate (even greater than several types of cancers!).
As noted earlier, we want you to be safe and healthy. The good news with diabetes is there are measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing serious medical problems. Collectively, we refer to these as your diabetic foot care plan – and it’s centered on both protecting your lower limbs and identifying issues at their earliest stages (before they become major health threats). These measures include managing your blood sugar levels, inspecting your feet every day, wearing diabetic socks and shoes, and using your prescribed custom orthotics (to offload pressure from certain areas of your feet).
Of course, a major component of responsible foot care is coming to see a podiatrist for regular checkups!
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.