For individuals diagnosed with diabetes, the body’s inability to use and manufacture insulin can result in a whole host of problems for one’s eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart, and feet. While diabetes does not have a cure, it can be successfully managed with exercise, healthy nutrition, and proper medical care. The podiatrist or foot doctor, plays a key role in helping diabetics decrease their risk for foot-related complications like infections, ulcers, and calluses. Let’s take a look at why foot care management and podiatry is critical for diabetics.
The Link Between Diabetes & Foot Infections
Those with diabetes have a higher risk of developing peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is when the peripheral arteries that provide blood flow to the legs, feet, arms, stomach, and head, narrow. This is caused by the accumulation of fatty deposits along the inner linings of the artery walls. If left unchecked, this can lead to severe foot pain, cold feet, slow wound healing, and in severe cases leg amputation from gangrene . However, PAD is not the only condition that can cause foot-related problems, as diabetics are also more likely to get infections from these 4 things.
l Nerve Damage & Skin: because diabetes often causes damage to the nerves in one’s feet, the skin can become extremely dry. This is because the nerves that exist outside of the brain and spinal column are responsible for supplying your organs, skin, and muscles with the blood, nutrients, and moisture that they need . Many diabetics will experience cracking skin in their feet, which can lead to infections if improperly managed.
l Poor Circulation: a reduction in blood flow due to PAD can slow down healing, making your body weaker to fighting off any existing infections.
l High Blood Pressure: this condition can also cause damage to the nerves and blood vessels in your body. If the nerves in your feet become too damaged, you may lose sensation in them completely. In not being able to feel your feet, this can lead to serious infections from wounds that go unnoticed. If an infection isn’t caught and treated in a timely manner, it can lead to tissue death.
l Untreated Ulcers: ill-fitting footwear is an extremely common precipitating factor in diabetic patients that develop foot ulcerations . If left untreated, these ulcers can lead to infections. They most commonly develop on the heel, under the big toe, and on the sides of the foot.
l Thick Calluses: if you notice thick calluses forming on the bottom of your feet, predominately under the heel and the big toe, talk with a foot doctor about the possibility of having these removed and what kind of issues they may cause in the future if left alone. Calluses can often form from ill-fitting footwear, so you may need to get recommendations for insoles/inserts or professionally fitted therapeutic/orthopedic shoes.
In routinely visiting a foot doctor, you can get a personalized treatment plan for the above issues, learn ways to decrease your risk for foot complications, and get an in-depth assessment of your overall foot health.
Warning Signs to Watch For in Your Feet & Ankles
If you see any of the following symptoms, reach out to a podiatrist at Wasatch Foot and Ankle to get a medical assessment, diagnosis, and treatment plan started.
l Any changes to your skin’s texture, sensation, or coloring.
l Any swelling or numbness in your feet, toes, or ankles.
l Foot pain or pain in your legs, especially when walking.
l Look for slow to heal wounds.
l Calluses or corns that bleed.
Podiatrist Recommendations for Managing Your Foot Health
There are things you can do outside of the doctor’s office to help keep your feet healthy.
1. Wear fitted orthotics to reduce ulcers and foot pain.
2. Avoid extreme temperatures.
3. Do daily checks for cuts, bruises, ulcers, blisters, infections, or cracks/dry skin.
4. Watch for swelling, redness, or warmth in your legs and feet.
5. Clean out scratches/cuts with water and mild soap.
6. Use podiatrist prescribed lotion for dry skin and always remove excess during application. Do not apply lotion between the toes as this can contribute to fungal growth.
7. Do not walk barefoot outdoors or use over-the-counter medications for warts or calluses.
8. If you have an ingrown toenail, corn, or callus, visit a foot doctor to have it treated. Do not treat at home.
9. Do not wear tight fitting clothes around the legs or feet.
10. Get up every hour when sitting and stretch/walk around.
If you are someone with diabetes, seeing a podiatrist is critical in managing your foot health, as they have the expertise and medical equipment to catch small changes to your feet and legs that may go unnoticed otherwise.