Diabetic Foot Care
Diabetes (diabetes mellitis) is a condition involving the pancreas. The pancreas is the organ that produces the hormone insulin, which is responsible for converting sugar, or glucose into energy for our body. Diabetes is a condition where the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin, or is completely incapable of producing it. As a result, sugars can be left to circulate through the blood stream, and can only be removed through our urine.
How Does Diabetes Affect the Feet?
The feet become affected when there is a high blood-sugar concentration over a long period of time. The two main changes that this can cause are circulation problems and issues with the nerves in the feet.
Poor Healing, Infections and Injury
When the concentration of sugar within the blood increases, there is an increased chance of developing atherosclerosis, or adhesions of sticky substances to the vessel walls. These can begin to block the vessels, which reduces the amount of blood that reaches the foot. This decreases the healing capacity of the foot as there are less nutrients and white blood cells reaching the area. Infection can spread more rapidly. The skin of the foot can also become dry and rough as a result of poor nutrition. This type of skin is more prone to injury and infection.
Exposure to high levels of blood sugar can also cause damage to the nerves in the feet. Usually this damage will be seen first in the furthest points of the body (i.e. the feet). The sensory nerves are typically first to be affected, and many patients begin to experience symptoms like tingling, pins and needles, burning, hypersensitivity, pain, or numbness. This is called peripheral neuropathy. Motor nerves may also become affected, causing tendons and muscles to become tough and rigid. These changes can affect the way the foot distributes weight, which cause high pressure areas (which ultimately become ulcers).
Why Monitoring Foot Health is Vital for the Diabetic
The patient may not feel that their foot is injured, and the body may not be capable of healing it properly. This can result in an infection. A diabetic infection can spread very quickly and become life threatening.
If you are a diabetic, your podiatrist can help you to develop a management plan to prevent complications and injury. We can perform routine checks of the quality of the blood flow and nerve health. Because diabetics are prone to infection, going to the nail salon can be a risky activity. A podiatrist can help you keep your nails trimmed properly and safely.