Diabetes can impact your feet in so many ways. But how does a condition that affects your blood sugar cause problems all the way down in your feet and toes? And how can caring for diabetic feet prevent devastating complications like amputations? Here’s what you need to know.
Why Caring for Diabetic Feet is so Important
When your blood sugar rises with diabetes, that can impact many other areas of your wellness. Because they are at the periphery of your body, your feet are often one of the first places where diabetic complications take effect. Here are just a few of the ways this disease can attack your foot health.
1. Diabetic Neuropathy.
This is a type of nerve damage that makes it harder for you sense temperature changes and pain. Early symptoms include numbness or tingling in the feet; occasionally, icy pain can also be a problem. Neuropathy enhances your risk for foot deformities and undetected wounds. In turn, you’re at a higher risk for ulcers and amputations. Luckily, caring for diabetic feet with preventative measures can prevent these complications.
2. Circulatory Changes.
Diabetes can cause narrowing and/or hardening of the blood vessels that feed your feet and legs. When that happens, blood flow to the area is dramatically reduced. Now, you may find it difficult to keep your feet warm, but you’ll face risks of burns if you try to heat them with hot water or electric devices. (Remember, you may not get a pain warning if the water or heating bad is dangerously hot.) Plus, with reduced blood flow comes reduced healing abilities. So a small burn or cut may take too long to heal, once again increasing your risk for ulcers. But, to prevent such concerns, we can also monitor your circulation with the Smart ABI (Ankle Brachial Index), a painless, non-invasive, advanced test that delivers fast, easy-to-interpret result. This in-office test allows us to compare your ankle and arm blood pressure. If the resulting score is low, that indicates to us that you could have peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
3. Higher Risk of Infection.
Another effect of reduced healing abilities, diabetic feet are more prone to infections because openings in the skin take longer to heal. This gives germs more opportunities to get beneath your skin, leaving you more vulnerable to infection. Then, once infected, your body will have a harder time healing. And, yet again, you’re staring down the barrel of increased ulcer and amputation risks. In fact…
4. More Frequent Foot and Leg Amputations
More than half the leg and foot amputations in this country are the result of diabetic complications. But when our podiatrists in Massapequa are part of your care team, we provide caring for diabetic feet that can prevent these devastating complications.
Caring for Diabetic Feet at Home and in the Office
Dr. Novneet Chhabra and Dr. Mark Gasparini, our podiatrists in Nassau County, focus on preventative diabetic care to protect you from ulcers and amputations. But we can’t do it alone: we need your help to keep your feet safe. But our requests are simple: change your shoes and inspect your feet daily. Here’s why these steps are so important, and tips for making the most of these suggestions.
Why wear diabetic shoes?
Diabetic feet can get into big trouble when they come under pressure. You see, whether it’s from tight shoes or the structure of your feet, your body can’t heal internally when faced with pressure. Further complicating things? If your skin starts breaking down under pressure, you may not even feel discomfort. In this way, you could form giant blisters, corns or calluses, or even an open wound, and never realize there’s a problem!
Of course, when pressure comes from the structure of your foot, you may need medical grade insoles or custom orthotics. However, if the pressure on your feet just comes from your foot wear, caring for diabetic feet could be as simple as wearing diabetic shoes.
These medical devices are often covered by insurance or Medicare, and are designed with greater depth and built-in insoles that keep pressure off the bottoms of your feet and the areas around your toes. The shoes are also designed to protect you from corns and calluses, two growths that form in response to pressure that could break down and leave you with an ulcer.
Now, even when you’re wearing diabetic shoes, your feet could get in trouble. Even something as simple as a pebble getting stuck in your shoes could cut up your feet. And, if you’ve lost sensation in the area, that could lead to problems. So, for that reason, you need to perform daily foot checks on your own, and come into the office quarterly for more comprehensive exams.
Caring for Diabetic Feet with Daily Foot Exams
It’s important to see your podiatrists in Long Island for a comprehensive, in-office foot exam approximately every three months. But you can’t wait that long to examine your feet for changes. In fact, you need to check your feet daily, establishing a specific time each day to do your at-home exam—a great idea is to do it just before bed, when you’ve been on your feet all day and may have developed a sore spot without realizing that.
When you sit down to conduct your diabetic foot check, make sure to examine the entire foot, including the bottoms, top and the spots between your toes. (For some of those hard to see spots, you may wish to ask someone else to help, or to use a mirror for a better view.) Once you’ve got all the angles covered, look for signs of:
• Red skin
• Corns or calluses
• Stuck objects
When to Call the Office
If you notice any changes to your feet during your daily foot exams, please call the office right away at 516-804-9038, or click here to contact us online. You see, when you have diabetes, even a minor concern like a small red spot on your foot can become a medical emergency—and quickly, too. What’s the best way to protect your feet from diabetic complications, and to prevent ulcers from forming? Become our partners in caring for your diabetic feet! Be smart when choosing your foot wear, examine your feet daily, visit our office quarterly and, between visits, call us right away at the first sign of trouble!