Diabetes is a very serious disease that affects many organ systems in the body, including your feet! According to the National Diabetes Statistic Report 2020, 1 in 10 Americans suffer from diabetes today. If you are one of them, or 1 of 88 million American adults who have prediabetes, you might be afraid of losing a toe, foot, or leg to diabetes, or even know someone who has. But, you can lower your chances of having diabetes-related foot problems by taking care of your feet every day and following the tips below. Today's podiatrist should be a critical part of your diabetes care team to prevent problems with your feet.
How Can Diabetes Harm Your Feet?
Diabetes is the leading cause for non-traumatic amputation or loss of a toe, foot, or leg. Sadly, almost half of these cases could be prevented with daily foot care.
Diabetes can cause nerve damage, or peripheral neuropathy, which is a loss of sensation in your feet. When this happens, it can be difficult to tell you when you have a problem like a blister, callus, sore or cut on your foot. This puts you at a higher risk for infection.
Nerve damage from diabetes can lead to changes in the shape of your feet, what is also known as Charcot's foot. This may start as redness, warmth, and swelling; and later, your bones and joints can shift or break, thereby altering the foot shape and creating a "rocker bottom" deformity.
Diabetes can reduce the amount of blood flow to your feet. Decreased blood flow in the feet, or peripheral arterial disease, can make a wound take longer to heal. Sometimes the wound never heals, and this puts you at high risk for a bone infection, systemic infection, or gangrene.
Gangrene and foot ulcers that do not get better with treatment can become critical limb-and-life-threatening infections that can lead to an amputation of your toe, foot, or part of your leg to prevent the infection from spreading to the rest of your body.
In honor of November being Diabetes Awareness Month, here are 5 quick and easy, foot care tips you should follow to prevent diabetes-related complications in your feet.
How to Prevent Diabetic Foot Complications
1) Don't go barefoot. Even in your own home. Diabetics are at high risk for getting cuts and resulting infections which can lead to serious illness, hospitalizations, amputations, or death.
2) Inspect feet daily. Check your feet every day for any new cuts, scrapes, or wounds. If you have difficulty examining your own feet, ask someone to look for you or use a telescoping mirror like this to inspect your feet.
3) Obtain professional foot care. Never try to treat calluses, corns, or warts by yourself. Over-the-counter products can cause damage to the skin.
4) Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes and white socks to protect your feet. Avoid socks with seams, which could rub and cause blisters or other skin injuries. Have new shoes properly measured and fitted as foot size and shape may change over time. Your podiatrist may be able to help you obtain diabetic shoes if you qualify.
5) Annual foot exam. Make a podiatrist part of your healthcare team. Regular checkups by a podiatrist—at least annually—are the best way to prevent complications, and ensure that your feet remain healthy.
Healthy feet matter! Here in Orange County, Dr. Tien is dedicated to preventing diabetes-related complications in her patients by providing high-risk foot care exams and preventative procedures such as nail trimming and callus care to prevent wounds, infections, and amputations. Make an appointment for a diabetic foot exam today.