If you're living with diabetes, you have a lot to manage. From keeping an eye on your blood glucose levels to making sure you're getting enough exercise, it's important to stay on top of your health. But there's one area you might not be thinking about: your feet.
Diabetes can cause a lot of problems for your feet, from minor issues like dry skin and cracked heels to more serious ones like nerve damage and infections. That's why it's so important to take care of your feet if you have diabetes. But how at risk are you, and when it is time to seek expert care at a diabetic foot care hospital?
Here are a few things you should know about the connection between diabetes and your feet:
How Does Diabetes Affect The Body?
There are two types of diabetes, type one and type two. People with type one do not produce insulin, while those with type two have a difficult time making and using insulin well. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body process sugar, and when the body cannot make and/or use it properly, sugar can build up in the blood.
Over time, elevated blood glucose levels, or high blood sugar, can damage the nerves and blood vessels. This can lead to a number of problems, including nerve damage, poor circulation, and infection.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to monitor your blood sugar levels and take steps to keep them under control. This will help prevent or delay the onset of complications, including those that can affect your feet.
Also, people with diabetes are at a higher risk of other health conditions as well, like high cholesterol, peripheral arterial disease, and diabetic vascular disease. For this reason, it’s important to see your doctor regularly and follow their recommended treatment plan.
How Does Diabetes Cause Foot Problems?
There are a few different ways that diabetes can cause problems with your feet. First, it can cause poor blood circulation in your lower limbs. This means that the blood isn’t flowing properly to your feet and they aren’t getting the oxygen and nutrients they need. Poor circulation can also make it difficult for an injury to heal.
Second, high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves in your feet. This is called diabetic neuropathy and it can cause numbness, tingling, or pain in your feet or toes. Loss of feeling is particularly dangerous, as it can also make it difficult to know if you have a cut, ulcer, or another injury on your foot, putting you at an increased risk of infection.
Finally, if you do get an infection, high blood sugar levels can weaken your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight it off. This can be serious or even life-threatening if not treated promptly.
For example, about 15% of people with diabetes will develop a diabetic foot ulcer. Of those, 6% will be hospitalized due to infection or another ulcer-related complication. Foot ulcers are open sores or wounds, often located on the bottom of the foot. A person with diabetic neuropathy may not be able to feel that they have a foot ulcer, which can unintentionally cause them to get in the way of the healing process.
For instance, if you have a foot ulcer, you may continue to walk on it without realizing it and further damage the tissue. Without proper wound care, this can lead to serious foot complications, including amputation.
What Are The Symptoms Of Diabetic Foot Problems?
There are a number of symptoms that can indicate you have a problem with your feet. These include:
- Numbness or tingling in your lower limbs
- Pain in your feet or legs
- Wounds or ulcers on your foot that are slow to heal
- Redness, swelling, or drainage from a wound
- Cracks between your toes
- Ingrown toenails
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek out proper diabetic foot care, like from the expert doctors at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists.
How Can I Protect My Feet?
To ensure proper foot care, first, always follow your doctor’s recommendations and guidance! In addition, here are things you should also consider:
- Check your feet regularly for cuts, sores, blisters, redness, or swelling
- Wash your feet daily with mild soap and dry them well, especially between the toes
- Trim your toenails regularly and file down any sharp edges - just be sure not to cut too close where you cause any bleeding
- Wear appropriate shoes that fit well and protect your feet
- Reduce your risk of developing foot ulcers by quitting smoking and drinking alcohol
If you have diabetes, foot care should be an important part of your overall healthcare routine. By taking steps to keep your feet healthy, you can help prevent serious complications.
When Should I See a Doctor?
If you have diabetes, you should see your primary care physician on a regular basis. In addition, it's important to have a highly experienced podiatrist on your side to help manage your foot care.
The expert doctors here at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists have years of experience in podiatric medicine, including treating diabetes-related foot problems, meaning our doctors can provide you with the individualized treatment you need.
Diabetic foot problems can lead to serious complications, but with proper care, they can be prevented. If you have diabetes, make sure to see your primary care physician and a podiatrist regularly. And if you experience any symptoms of a diabetic foot problem, don't hesitate to seek the appropriate treatment right away. The earlier you catch and treat problems, the better chance you have of preventing serious complications and surgery.
At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, we're here to help you keep your feet healthy and prevent serious complications. Schedule an appointment with us or visit one of our locations for a walk-in appointment. We look forward to hearing from you!