Diabetic Foot Problems
Not only does diabetes require patients to constantly monitor their blood glucose level, but patients must also examine their feet everyday in order to prevent infections that can lead to open wounds or even amputation. In the feet and lower legs, diabetes can cause poor circulation through the hardening of arteries as well as nerve problems that affect a patients’ ability to feel correctly. Without consistent observation, diabetic feet may not heal properly from minor injuries or constant rubbing from poorly fitting shoes. Other foot abnormalities such as hammertoe, athlete’s foot, or even ingrown toenails should be treated as serious issues.
Patients with diabetes should have regular visits with one of our physicians at American Foot and Leg Specialists. However, symptoms in the feet and lower legs like persistent pain, swelling, hard shiny skin, pus, red streaking, new or lasting numbness, minor trauma, or a new blister/ulcer/wound need to be addressed immediately by one of our board certified podiatry specialists.
Common Diabetic Foot Complications
The two most common complication that lead to foot infections in diabetics are:
Diabetic Neuropathy: Diabetic neuropathy occurs as a result of uncontrolled diabetes and results in the loss of feeling in the feet. This loss of feeling becomes particularly problematic when a blister, cut, ulcer, or similar complication develops on the foot and a patient cannot detect the complication. The blister, cut, ulcer, or other complication can then go undetected for some time and become infected before it is properly addressed.
Peripheral Artery Disease: Diabetes can result in peripheral artery disease which leads to reduced blood flow to the feet (peripheral refers to the extremities away from the heart). Poor blood circulation to an injury or irritation of the foot can make it difficult for even the smallest cut or sore to heal leading to infection or other serious complications.
Diabetic Foot Amputations
Diabetes is the single greatest cause of non-traumatic leg amputations. The risk of leg and foot amputations significantly increases for those who have diabetes compared to those who do not. Furthermore, evidence suggests that around 80% of these amputations can be avoided with early detection and proper foot care. Due to neuropathy and the associated lack of feeling, early detection can be difficult. Combining the lack of feeling associated with neuropathy and the lack of blood flow with peripheral artery disease, undetected and slow healing infection can result in amputation of a toe, foot, or entire leg.
In light of the serious nature of such foot complications, it is important to maintain proper foot care and see our physicians at American Foot and Leg Specialists routinely if you have diabetes.
Treatment for Diabetic Foot Complications
Exercise is often times recommended as a way of improving circulation throughout the body, including the feet and legs, though one should consult one of our physicians before starting any exercise regimen. As previously mentioned, most diabetic complications are avoidedable with effective foot care. This includes wearing properly fitted shoes (ask our physicians about prescription shoes that are covered by Medicare), not going barefoot, performing regular self-examinations of your feet, wearing stockings that improve blood circulation, and other similar forms of care.
Healthy Feet Tips for Diabetic Foot Care
While diabetic patients should check their feet every day, Dr. Colon and our team of physicians have provided some helpful foot care tips below for preventing diabetic complications:
- Do not buy shoes early in the day.
- Do not buy shoes that need to be broken in.
- Do not wear the same shoes every day.
- Do not wear sandals or thong flip-flops.
- Do not wear socks or stockings with a tight elastic band.
- Do not wear support hose with seams or garters.
- Do not treat corns and calluses yourself.
- Do not walk barefoot.
- Do not smoke and further decrease your blood flow.
- Do not use strong chemicals or antiseptic solutions such as iodine or salicylic acid on your feet.
- Do not use heating pads, electric blankets, or hot water bottles on your feet.
- Do not use tape or other sticky materials on your feet.
- Do not trim your toenails in a curved fashion.
- Do not soak your feet without asking one of our physicians.
- Do not get your feet wet in the rain or snow.
- Do not use lotion, petroleum jelly, lanolin, or oil on in between your toes.
- Do not sit with your legs crossed for a long period of time.
- Do not stand in one position for a long period of time.
- Do gently wash your feet every day with gentle soap.
- Do dry your feet after bathing.
- Do use lotion, petroleum jelly, lanolin, or oil on the top and bottom of your foot.
- Do rotate your shoes.
- Do examine your feet every day for any common diabetic foot symptoms listed above.
- Do request shoes with deep toe boxes with leather upper materials.
- Do protect your foot from hot and cold.
- Do examine your shoes for any foreign objects or spots that could rub your feet consistently.
- Do wear clean, dry socks or non binding pantyhose.
- Do wear natural fiber socks such as cotton, wool, or cotton-wool blend.
- Do wear warm socks and protective footwear in the winter.
- Do prop your feet up when seated as often as you can.
- Do contact our office if your circulation is impaired.
- Do contact our office immediately for any minor or major injury to your foot.