Diabetic Foot Care: Protecting Your Long-Term Health
Diabetes poses significant health risks for your feet and legs. Those afflicted with this all-too-common immunodeficiency disease have heightened risks for issues like:
- Infections that lead to amputation
- Wounds that won’t heal
- Nerve damage
- Circulation problems
- Balance issues
For those who suffer with diabetes, regular vigilance and proactive, comprehensive foot care is absolutely critical to preventing complications and remaining active and healthy over the long term.
And we are here to help you with that.
How diabetes affects your feet (and why it matters)
Some of the more common (and dangerous) complications of diabetes include:
- Diabetic Neuropathy. High blood sugar damages nerves and nerve function, particularly in the peripheral nerves that enable sensation in your hands and feet. You may experience this as numbness, burning, tingling, or altered sensations.
- Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD). Decreased blood flow to your feet from PVD slows down your body’s natural healing processes.
- This is cramping and pain in your leg(s) following activity. Claudication can be considered a red flag, indicating critically reduced blood flow. Symptoms improve with rest but reoccur after the next round of (even light) physical activity.
- Diabetic Wounds/Ulcers. Lack of sensation and circulation is a combination that can turn even minor issues into large ulcers that are slow to heal and have high infection risk.
- Critically low blood supply and/or significant infection of a wound will cause a darkening of the skin from tissue death. This can lead to a potentially life-threatening situation.
- Charcot foot. In cases with severe sensitivity loss, you may not even feel foot bones breaking. Continuing to walk on broken bones (again, you cannot feel this happening) can lead to substantial deformity. Eventually, you are left with a collapsed or “rocker bottom” foot.
- High blood sugar prevents white blood cells from doing their job of fighting infection. This is why individuals with diabetes are four times more likely to get an infection.
- If an infected wound is able to spread (because it wasn’t treated in time), amputation of a toe, part of the foot, or even much of an affected limb may be required to save your life.
Our comprehensive approach to diabetic foot care
Clearly, diabetes poses risks of serious complications, and our goal is to protect your long-term health, mobility, and quality of life.
This means taking measures like:
- Being proactive with your checkups
- Developing a customized program of care intended to treat and reverse any existing conditions
- Coordinating with internists, endocrinologists, or other medical professionals as necessary (as part of your comprehensive diabetic care team)
Depending on your own individual needs, maintenance treatments may include:
- Oral medications or supplements for neuropathy
- Special diabetic shoes and socks to protect feet from damage
- Care to address and reduce skin and nail problems
When and if ulcers do form, we also provide diabetic wound care – doing everything in our power to bring swift healing, stop any infections, and ultimately prevent amputation.
Regular diabetic foot checks are crucial
Because chronic high blood sugar often leads to reduced nerve function in the extremities, you may not always be able to “feel” when something (a cut, scrape, or even a more serious injury) is wrong.
Diabetes also reduces blood flow, so those injuries take longer to heal. They may also form ulcers or get infected.
With that being the case, you need:
- Regular at-home foot checks – at least once daily
- Routine professional foot examinations – at the very minimum once per year (ideally, several times)
What do we mean by an at-home foot check?
Well, take a few moments every day to sit down and carefully inspect your feet. Use both your eyes and hands to scan/feel for cuts, bruises, bumps, cracks, dry skin, irregular textures, rashes, redness, etc.
(Basically, anything out of the ordinary.)
You can do this after a bath or shower (so your feet are as clean as possible, which makes it easier to see). Make sure your inspection includes oft-overlooked areas, like between the toes.
It can be tricky to view the bottoms of your feet, so you may need to use a mirror or smart phone and selfie stick (images can be enlarged). If you have any loved ones at home, you might want to enlist help.
If you find anything unusual – and we mean anything – contact us right away to request an appointment. Remember, even minor issues escalate if they aren’t treated!
The diabetic foot care plan you need today!
If you have diabetes, don’t underestimate the risk to your feet.
Call our office at (317) 545-0505 or use our online form to schedule an appointment with Dr. Leibovitz. He can conduct a comprehensive examination and discuss preventative care that will keep you safe!