Among the many body parts requiring attention for proper diabetes management, the feet too need regular assessment and care. By monitoring the functional status of the feet, the early signs of diabetic foot conditions can best be detected and addressed.
Characteristics of healthy feet
Whether walking, dancing, biking or hiking; healthy feet are able to adapt to a variety of terrains thanks in large part to an intact nervous system and adequate blood flow. The nervous system is also vital for the perception of pain, an indication that damage has occurred and further injury should be avoided.
As the region of the body subject to the pressure of the full body weight, the feet can be prone to both long term strain and short term stress. The pressure on the feet can be further exacerbated by the pooling of blood in this gravity-dependent region of the body. Healthy nerves in the feet help prevent minor discomforts or injuries from becoming major assaults.
Healthy circulation further protects the foot by ensuring that components of the immune system can be readily delivered to any region of the foot in which damage has developed. This is further aided by adequate blood flow allowing the swift delivery of nutrients to and waste products from the tissues of the feet.
Diabetes and the feet
Diabetes can lead to important changes in both the circulatory and nervous systems. As a result, the positioning of the foot may not adjust fully while walking or standing and excess pressure can build up in some areas. The base of the big toe is a common point of excess pressure, causing many diabetics to develop ulcers in and around the ball of the foot.
Another common type of diabetic foot injury, due to decreased pain perception in the feet, is the presence of small objects that have pierced the skin. Whereas a healthy foot can sense the pain of a small pin or stone, such items can become embedded in a diabetic foot and cause more significant damage.
Due to poor circulation and altered immune function, a diabetic foot wound can be slow to heal and complicated to treat. This allows even small foot injuries to become significant health risks to diabetics.
Caring for the diabetic foot
Prevention is a key component of diabetic foot care. At the end of each day, diabetics needs to look at the soles of both feet to ensure no new damage has developed. Additionally, the healthcare provider overseeing diabetes management will regularly inspect the feet to assess the circulatory and nervous function. If damage has been detected, special treatments such as pressure-reducing shoes or visits to a wound care specialist may be recommended.
Due to impairments in the circulatory and immune systems, injury or infection that has developed in a diabetic foot can be slow to heal. This can require regular visits to a foot or wound care specialist. Improperly cared for, wound infection in a diabetic foot can lead to serious complications and amputation.
Your diabetic foot care team
While intended to be informative, this article does not take the place of professional medical advice. If you have questions or concerns on this topic, please contact a healthcare professional.
Consider visiting American Foot and Leg Specialists to learn more about your diabetic foot care options. With four locations, American Foot and Leg Specialists serves the South Atlanta Metro area including Fulton County, Cobb County, Douglas County, Fayette County, Henry County, and Clayton County. Our hours are 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday thru Friday.