Welcome to national diabetes month! During this time, podiatrists like Dr. Andrew Shneider help spread awareness of the toll this disease can take on your feet. But what is diabetes, why do many diabetics develop complications in their feet, and how can we prevent problems? Keep reading to find out!
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects nearly 24 million Americans. People with diabetes have difficulties producing or using insulin. (That's the hormone in your body that lets your cells turn glucose into energy.) This results in high blood sugar levels. There are two forms of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. With type 1, your body produces little or no insulin. It's considered a chronic condition with no cure; the goal for type 1 diabetics is to maintain low blood sugar levels in their bodies.
In contrast, type 2 diabetics are able to produce insulin. (Although probably not enough to meet their body's requirements.) The problem with this disease form is that the body can't respond properly to insulin. As such, they don't absorb enough glucose, and your blood sugar levels may rise once again. Like type 1, we can't cure type 2 diabetes, but this condition can often be managed or improved with diet and lifestyle measures.
Foot Complications Linked to Diabetes
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to various additional health concerns. However, patients with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing a variety of foot problems. There are several reasons why diabetic foot problems may occur. Here's a brief rundown.
Diabetes can damage your peripheral nerves. (These are the ones located outside of your brain and spinal system.) If that happens, you may develop a painful condition called peripheral neuropathy. Patients with neuropathy experience unpleasant symptoms including burning pain, tingling or numbness. Some patients report feeling like their feet are encased in wax. And many have a reduced ability to feel pain, heat and cold. This means that they may not feel a foot injury until it becomes serious.
Nerve damage from neuropathy may also cause foot deformities. Forcing deformed feet and toes into regular shoes can be painful and can cause further foot injury and deformation. For that reason, Tanglewood Foot Specialists offers a diabetic shoe program. These special therapeutic shoes can prevent calluses, foot ulcers and other injuries that can lead to infection and even foot amputation. For years, our patients had to choose between style and safety when it came to shoes for diabetics. Today, however, we are proud to carry Anodyne diabetic shoes in the office. This line of safe and stylish footwear allows our diabetic patients to look and feel their best. Plus, the cost of the shoes is covered by Medicare Part B and many private insurance companies for those who qualify. To learn more about our Houston diabetic shoe program, contact Tanglewood Foot Specialists.
Diabetes causes the blood vessels of the foot and leg to narrow and harden. This reduces blood flow to the feet. Additionally, people with diabetes have an increased risk for peripheral arterial disease. And that condition also reduces the amount of blood flowing to your feet. But why is that such a serious concern? Well, reduced blood flow may cause your feet to feel cold. However, fighting that concern is risky. In fact, it is dangerous for diabetics to warm their feet as they may not be able to tell when their feet get too hot. As a result, heating the feet with anything other than warm socks and shoes can cause burns and other foot injuries.
Additionally, poor circulation makes it more difficult for foot injuries to heal. And it makes it harder for your body to fight infection. For these reasons, if you do develop a foot ulcer, it is less likely to close. Plus, it's more prone to infection. In combination, that means you'll have a higher risk for amputation once an ulcer develops.
Because of poor circulation, diabetic foot injuries such as foot ulcers, calluses, and even cracked feet can easily become infected. Fortunately, regular diabetic foot care can prevent injuries and infection and help speed healing. That means checking your feet every day for changes to its appearance, including red spots, cuts, blisters or calluses. Any sign of a new growth or infection on a diabetic foot needs to be evaluated immediately in our Houston podiatry practice to ensure it will heal quickly and completely. And, even if your feet look healthy, you need to schedule quarterly in-office visits for more comprehensive foot exams.
More than half of all foot and leg amputations are related to diabetes. Most amputations occur when foot ulcers become so infected that there is no other way to treat the injury. The risk for amputation is much higher if the infection reaches the bone, which is why prevention and early detection are both critical. Luckily, with pre-emptive diabetic foot care, most foot amputations can be prevented.
Prevention and Diabetic Foot Care
Foot problems are the most common cause of hospital admissions for diabetic patients. At Tanglewood Foot Specialists , we believe that prevention is the best medicine. While we treat the foot pain and injury caused by diabetes, we also work with our patients to prevent further foot injury. Regular diabetic foot care can ease foot pain, fight infection and prevent amputation. Call our office at (713) 785-7881 to lean about diabetic foot care and injury prevention.
If you are diabetic and have a foot injury, call our office immediately. Quick treatment is the best way to prevent complications. Because time is of the essence, we offer immediate appointments to our diabetic patients.