Many people with diabetes often suffer from some sort of foot complications from the disease. But those suffering can significantly reduce their complications by checking their feet regularly.
While diabetic foot problems usually relate to poor circulation or nerve damage (neuropathy), both can affect the structure and function of the foot, and together create a perfect storm for serious issues.
Common diabetes foot and leg problems include infections or ulcers — sores in the skin that could travel to the bone; corns and calluses from shoe friction; dry, cracked skin resulting from pressure; nail disorders like ingrown toenails; hammertoes and bunions stemming from muscle weakness, and loss of tone in the feet; and Charcot foot, which develops as a result of loss of sensation and an undetected broken bone.
The most commonly seen diabetic foot complication is wounds. Neuropathy causes a loss of feeling in feet, which diminishes a patient’s ability to feel pain.
This becomes problematic when issues aren’t detected before they worsen, leading to wounds. With poor circulation, wounds become serious as the lack of blood flow to the foot reduces the ability to heal. This combination makes it hard for even a tiny cut to resist infection, and is a common and critical complication, which could lead to amputation or even death, if left untreated.
Many patients living with diabetes believe foot complications and amputation are inevitable. Patients may have seen family members who have lost limbs or lived with severe complications, and not known enough to understand it’s easy to prevent
Preventive care is highly effective. With regular visits to a foot and ankle surgeon, we can inspect the feet, check pressure and nerve function, educate patients on appropriate shoe gear and how to control their diabetes, and, most importantly, help them understand what their feet look or feel like when something is wrong.
I urge patients to be proactive and keep an eye on their feet. Keeping diabetes under control is where it all starts and stops, and maintaining a good blood sugar level and a healthy diet are the first steps.
Patients should schedule regular follow-up visits with their foot and ankle surgeon to check their feet, and learn how to scout out problems.
For more information on diabetic foot complications, visit the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons’ patient education website at FootHealthFacts.org.