Diabetes affects over 30 million Americans and is classified into two different types: Type 1 and Type two. Type 1 is usually associated with juvenile diabetes and is often linked to heredity.
Type two, commonly referred to as adult-onset diabetes, is characterized by elevated blood sugars, often in people who are overweight or have not attended to their diet properly. Diabetics must pay particular attention to their feet as they are at risk for developing complications that can lead to foot and lower leg amputation and even death.
Symptoms, Causes and Common Treatments
- Neuropathy (nerve damage) – tingling, pain, numbness
- Degenerative structure and shape of foot
- Infection from untreated blisters
Complications Related to Diabetes
There are numerous complications associated with diabetes. Diabetes disrupts the vascular system, affecting many areas of the body, such as the eyes, kidneys, legs, and feet. This can lead to peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) in the feet. In fact, diabetes is the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy. Neuropathy can lead to a dangerous foot condition called Charcot Foot, a degenerative process where the structure and shape of the foot collapse due to undetected injury, thus creating a deformity. Charcot Foot can lead to ulcers in the feet that are difficult to heal, often resulting in amputation and even death. High blood sugar damages the vascular system and nerve fibers, especially in the feet and legs affecting both sensory nerves and the proprioceptors (the nerves that tell your body where it is in relation to space, e.g. where your foot is relative to the floor, the stairs, etc.). This nerve damage results in sensations that range from tingling, to pain or numbness. For some people, the symptoms can be mild, while for others they can be severe, disabling, and even fatal. Because diabetic neuropathy affects the nerves of the feet, even small injuries such as a blister or rubbing inside a shoe can go undetected. Because shoes are a warm, moist environment, bacteria grows quickly. This can lead to infection, which can be difficult to address as the blood supply to neuropathic feet is compromised due to vascular damage. Infections that won’t heal can quickly turn into diabetic ulcers (injury into the deeper layers of tissue) which dramatically increase the risk of amputation of the affected area.
- Elevated blood sugar
- Damage to the vascular system
- Damage to nerve fibers
- Inspect your feet daily, including between the toes.
- Wash your feet daily. Dry carefully, especially between the toes.
- Avoid extreme temperatures.
- Inspect the insides of your shoes.
- Wear properly fitted shoes and socks at all times – never go barefoot.
- Protect your feet from hot and cold.
- Always wear seamless socks with your shoes.
- Cut your nails straight across, using an emery board to file corners.
- Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for 5 minutes 2 or 3 times a day to increase blood flow to your feet.
- Ask your doctor to plan an exercise program that is right for you.
- Call your doctor immediately if you have a cut, sore, blister or bruise that does not heal after one day.
- Get regular foot examinations
Solutions to Diabetic Foot Issues
If you have diabetes, it is vitally important that you examine your feet regularly, even if you do not have peripheral neuropathy. It is not uncommon for diabetics to not realize that they have neuropathy as it can present with a gradual numbing of the foot. Any small injury, left undetected, can lead to complications that can result in amputation. Pressure and friction are the enemies of diabetic feet. Shoes should be fitted by a shoe fitting expert (Pedorthist) who can assure that the shoes will properly fit and support the feet, reducing the risk of injury from shoes that are too tight or are likely to rub or cause injury. Excessive pressure causes calluses and corns, which can easily lead to an injury which can be hard to heal in a diabetic foot. The best way to reduce pressure points and improve foot function is through the use of arch supports. If you have Charcot Foot, at a minimum, you require custom arch supports (orthotics) and properly fitted shoes. You may require custom shoes. Only get your footwear from a certified Pedorthist (C.Ped.) or Orthotist/Prosthetist (CPO) to ensure you protect and care for your very special, at-risk feet. Call Foot Solutions to make an appointment with one of our certified Pedorthists.
Foot Solutions Products
- Supportive athletic, casual or dress shoes
- Wellness shoes to help you walk properly and correct your balance
- Off-the-shelf arch supports
- Custom-fitted, custom-crafted arch supports