Diabetic Foot Care
Diabetes is a serious medical condition, and a growing problem for the U.S. population. Over 30 million people are diabetic—including 7.2 million who are undiagnosed—and another 84 million are considered prediabetic. Prediabetes is a condition wherein blood sugar levels are higher than a healthy range, but are not high enough to merit an actual diagnosis of diabetes.
There are many health considerations and concerns associated with diabetes, including ones related to the health and safety of your feet. Feet might not seem to be too important when you have a disease that causes blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, and strokes, but diabetes puts your lower limbs at serious risk for medical emergencies.
How Diabetes Affects Feet
Before we look at what problems can develop specifically in the feet, we need to discuss how the condition affects internal systems—particularly the nervous, circulatory/cardiovascular, and immune/lymphatic systems—so you can see why they arise.
Your nervous system has two components—the central and peripheral nervous systems. The central nervous system is formed by your brain and spinal column. The peripheral nervous system is a vast network of peripheral nerves throughout the body. These nerves are responsible for transmitting electronic signals to and from the central nervous system.
Elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels damages nerves. This can interfere with, and even completely disrupt, peripheral nerves’ ability to communicate with your brain and spinal column. Over half of all diabetic individuals develop neuropathy from the disease.
In addition to nerve damage, the heightened sugar levels cause blood vessels to become constricted—which affects their ability to allow oxygenated blood to provide nourishment to body tissues—and weaken the immune system. A weakened immune system leaves people more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.
Diabetic Foot Ulcers
With regard to foot-specific problems from diabetes, diabetic foot ulcers are the most concerning. An ulcer develops when skin tissue breaks down and exposes layers underneath to the external environment. The initial skin breakdown can be caused by a wide array of wounds—both of internal and external origin.
When diabetes compromises the nervous, circulatory, and immune systems, there is great risk of a diabetic foot ulcer developing. This starts when nerve damage takes away the ability for an individual to recognize a wound that has been sustained. Given that blood flow is diminished, the wound will not heal as it would for an otherwise healthy person. Further, the impaired immune system is unable to fight off contaminants that enter through the opening.
An untreated wound can escalate to the point of gangrene (tissue death). There is no known cure for gangrene, and the only way it is “treated” is with amputation. That means it is important to A) take measures to prevent wounds form happening and B) use a daily foot inspection to find problems when they are their earliest, most-treatable stages.
Along with diabetic foot ulcers, another major concern with diabetes is Charcot foot. In this condition, a foot becomes severely misshapen to the point of being considered “an amputation waiting to happen.”
The two system failures at play for Charcot foot are with the circulatory and nervous systems. As previously noted, restricted blood flow stops body tissues—including bones in the feet—from receiving the nutrition they need. Accordingly, foot bones are weaker than they should be.
The other half of the problem leading up to a Charcot foot condition is diabetic neuropathy. When weakened foot bones break from normal usage (not even “dropping something heavy on them”), pain is the normal trigger for your brain to recognize a problem and get the treatment you need. Damaged nerves do not convey the message. Since they don’t, you will likely continue walking as you usually would. Walking places tremendous force loads on the feet, so further breaking happens. The damaged nerves still do not let the brain know, and the cycle continues until the foot is severely deformed.
South Hill Foot & Ankle – Your Source for Diabetic Foot Care
We don’t want you to suffer from either a diabetic foot ulcer or Charcot foot. Your first step in protecting your lower limbs is to come see us for a diabetic foo care plan. We can help you create a plan that is centered on preventative measures, including daily foot inspections, offloading pressure, wearing diabetic footwear, and managing the diabetes.
South Hill Foot & Ankle Clinic is here to help. We can assist you in creating a diabetic foot care plan, but we also provide exceptional treatment options for when problems develop. Remember, early care and attention is always best, so contact us for an appointment as soon as you become aware of anything out of the ordinary with your lower limbs.
If you would like additional information about our diabetic foot care services, or you need to request an appointment with our Spokane, WA podiatrist office, call (509) 747-0274 or take advantage of our online form to connect with us right now.