If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes you should be aware of the importance of your health checks to prevent common foot problems for diabetic people, that can range from minor to needing amputation in severe cases.
Whether this be the daily blood sugar checks you should be doing at home or the regular GP clinics you should be attending, it all goes a long way to ensuring you’re living in the healthiest manner possible.
Something you might not think about as regularly as your blood sugar levels is your feet. Several different kinds of foots problems regularly occur in individuals with diabetes. You should be making sure to check your feet daily and attend foot clinics too.
How Does Diabetes Cause Foot Problems?
If you have diabetes mellitus (type 1 or type 2), it is especially important to take good care of your feet.
One of the complications that can arise from poorly controlled blood sugar levels is a reduced efficiency of blood flow throughout the body. As your feet are about as far away from your heart as it’s possible to get, they’re most vulnerable to damage from lack of efficient blood flow.
Foot Problems and Diabetic Nerve Damage
Diabetic nerve damage is another major complication that you need to keep an eye out for. It follows logic that if you can’t feel your feet, you may have problems walking properly, and you’re more likely to suffer from worse cuts, blisters and ulcers. Pain exists to warn you there’s something wrong – not feeling it puts you at a disadvantage!
Type 2 Diabese Causes Artery and Nerve Damage
The two main foot problems involved in people with Type 2 Diabetes that cause frequent issues are:
- peripheral neuropathy.
- peripheral artery disease.
- These conditions arise because of uncontrolled blood sugar.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
This refers to the narrowing and/or occlusion of blood vessels by the build up of atherosclerotic plaques. This is commonly known as ‘hardening’ of the arteries. As the arteries become stiff, this impacts healthy blood flow through the body, and the body needs oxygenated blood to survive.
Diabetes is a well-known risk factor for this vascular condition. Signs and symptoms of PAD related back to the decreased oxygen delivery to the lower legs and feet. Pain in the calves during exercise is commonly experienced, and in severe cases tissue death can start to occur.
Peripheral Neuropathy and Foot Problems
This refers to damage to the peripheral nerves as a direct result of diabetes and uncontrolled blood sugar. Symptoms of neuropathy include decreased sensation in the peripheries (especially the legs and feet), making it more difficult to perceive injuries.
Peripheral neuropathy can also cause pain, tingling or burning sensations in the involved areas. In worse cases, the muscles of the feet can also be caused to work improperly, leading to misalignment of the foot, and excessive pressure being placed on certain areas of the foot, leading to pain or difficulty walking.
What Foot Problems Should You Look Out For if I have Diabetes?
In severe cases, due to the combination of decreased sensation and reduced blood flow to the feet, ulcers might develop.
Other foot problems commonly seen in those with diabetes are:
- Fungal Infections
- Dryness of skin
- Ingrown toenails
None of these conditions are specific to diabetes, but all increase in likelihood due to it.
The Worst-Case Scenario?
In the case your tissues continue to receive insufficient oxygen and nutrients, tissue death (also known as gangrene) can start to occur.
Gangrene is a serious condition where the tissue begins to die and can be potentially life threatening in poorly managed cases. Gangrene cannot be reversed once it has begun, but treatments are available to prevent dry gangrene from spreading or becoming infected.
Once gangrene becomes infected it is termed as ‘wet gangrene’ and is much more concerning. Infection in this dead tissue can easily spread to the healthy tissues beneath the skin (cellulitis), the bone (osteomyelitis), and the bloodstream (sepsis).
Surgical removal of the dead tissue is often recommended or required in the case of gangrene developing, in severe cases, this could involve amputation of the affected foot, or limb.
How Can I Prevent This?
Many diabetes-related foot problems can be prevented through proper control and monitoring of blood sugar levels combined with appropriate care and daily checks of your own feet.
Foot Care Tips for Those with Diabetes
- You may choose to see a podiatrist at least once a year to assist you in staying on top of things.
- Pay some extra attention to your feet when you wash, this will keep them clean, allow you to check for cuts and blisters, and help to keep your feet free from infection.
- Ensure that all your shoes fit properly and avoid any footwear that squeezes or rubs – shoes that don’t fit are much more likely to cause corns, calluses, ulcers and even nail problems.
- Try not to walk around barefoot for any extended periods of time, especially outside. Walking around barefoot puts you at additional risk of obtaining cuts.
- Don’t sit with your legs crossed: crossing your legs will restrict the blood flow that reaches your feet further.
- Take good care of your toe nails and make sure everything is cute, filed and healthy.
- Stop smoking: smoking can cause additional impairment to your blood circulation, so it’s best avoided for this, and many other reasons.
Amanda Roberts is health writer for Nutrition Inspector