When you think of diabetes, you probably think about avoiding sugar and taking blood tests. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with Diabetes, you should also be thinking about your feet and ankles. Diabetes affects every area of your health, requiring constant monitoring. In fact, good diabetic foot care can be crucial for preventing severe, painful complications that could deteriorate into life-threatening infections or limb amputations.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) disease with no cure that plagues millions every year.

Diabetes is the body’s inability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin, affecting how your body turns food into energy.

The majority of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (glucose), then released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar rises, it communicates with your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin allows the blood sugar to enter your body’s cells for use of energy.

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or simply can’t use the insulin it naturally creates as well as it should. When your body doesn’t have sufficient insulin or the cells no longer respond to the insulin, you retain a dangerous amount of blood sugar in your bloodstream. 

How does diabetes affect the feet?

People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing ulcers and other diabetic foot problems, such as; bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoes, fungal infections and more. 

Due to type 1 and type 2 diabetes causing damage to the blood vessels and peripheral nerves, two main conditions are found to be responsible for the increased risk of foot & leg problems in those with diabetes:

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a problem that can appear from compromised blood vessels. The problem is with narrowed, blocked up blood vessels traveling into your feet and ankles.

Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy 

Diabetes is often accompanied by a condition called neuropathy. Damaged nerves may misfire and cause aching, burning, or shooting pains. You may have numb patches, too. Being diagnosed with neuropathy does not mean that there is no hope. At Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic, our doctors specialize in treating this condition, and can help diagnose and treat both the discomfort and the potential complications of peripheral neuropathy.

What is a foot ulcer?

Image of a Diabetic Foot Ulcer

A foot ulcer is an open sore on your foot. Your skin tissue breaks down, causing a hole in the deeper layers of your skin.

Ulcer size ranges from very small to larger than the size of a half-dollar. Foot ulcers can be crater-like and deepen the longer they are left untreated.

Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Since your compromised immune system can’t heal wounds as efficiently, walking on an injury or area with increased pressure that you can’t feel due to neuropathy will only cause the skin deteriorate. Typically causing a diabetic foot ulcer, which are quite serious if not properly treated.

 

How do I know if I have a foot ulcer?

Ulcers appear most often under your big toes and balls of your feet. Where your bodies natural pressure points present.

Some ulcers are so small, you won’t notice them until they are infected. An early sign of infected ulcers is drainage stains on your socks. 

Other symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Discomfort
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • An unusual odor
  • Irritation
What causes foot ulcers?

Poor Circulation and diabetes are the most common causes of foot ulcers. Poor circulation (blood flow) can make your feet less able to fight infection and to heal. Diabetes causes blood vessels of the foot and leg to narrow and harden. Without healthy circulation of blood in your system, small cuts or scrapes don’t heal quickly enough, forming a foot ulcer.

Nerve damage decreases the feeling in your feet causing small sores to develop from dry, cracked skin that often times go unnoticed until they turn into ulcers. 

How can I prevent foot ulcers?

You can prevent foot ulcers in several ways, including:

  • Foot baths
  • Checking for cuts or scrapes daily
  • Wearing shoes that fit well
  • Trimming your toenails correctly, cutting straight across the nail instead of rounding the edges
  • Avoiding smoking

If you are a Diabetic, seeing a podiatrist regularly will help you spot a foot ulcer before it becomes infected. Being preventive, rather reactive can be the key to preventing amputation. 

How are foot ulcers treated?

Once our highly skilled team at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic diagnoses you with a foot ulcer, treatment needs to start right away.

The doctor may suggest treating your ulcer with:

  • Resting your feet
  • Wearing orthotic shoes or braces
  • Removing dead skin at the clinic
  • Taking an X-ray to check for bone infections or send some samples of your skin cells to the lab.
  • Using an antibiotic
    • The lab determines if an antibiotic will help fight your infection.

If traditional treatments are ineffective, our doctors give great respects to their continued education. Dr. Silvester, Dr. Bills and Dr. Larsen specialize in many advanced minimally and non-invasive treatments and if necessary, minimally invasive and traditional surgical techniques with patient proven success stories.

What makes Diabetic foot ulcers so serious?

Without comprehensive diabetic foot care, people with diabetes are far more likely to have a foot or leg amputated than other people. Amputation Prevention

What do diabetics need to know about foot health?

Diabetic foot care revolves around maintaining the health of your lower limbs and attempting to prevent additional issues from compromising your feet and ankles. Your feet are your body’s foundation and your main source of mobility. Keeping them healthy is a priority, especially for Dr. Darren Silvester and our team of specialists here at Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic. We will evaluate your feet and legs to determine what, if any, issues have already developed. Then we can help you establish home care habits to help prevent problems.

What other foot complications come from diabetes?

People with Diabetes can develop many different foot problems. Even ordinary problems can get worse and lead to serious complications. Your feet are highly sensitive to changes from Diabetes. Some people even experience symptoms in their feet before the condition is noticed elsewhere. Elevated sugar levels compromise your blood vessels, allowing fluid to leak into your tissues and damage them. Your immune system is weakened, so any issues that develop are harder to heal and have much higher odds of incurring complications. Infections are more dangerous, too.  Allowed to progress too far, they could threaten your entire foot with amputation.

Calluses

One of the most common areas for a diabetic foot ulcer to appear is under a callus. Calluses are thickened, hard areas of skin that develop over parts of the foot that experience increased pressure due to a bone or other prominence, or even shoes that are too tight. Since a neuropathic patient cannot feel the pain of a callus, and the ulcer forms under the callus, it is imperative that a diabetic person does a daily foot exam to monitor their feet for these troubling issues.

Skin Changes

Diabetes can cause changes in the skin of your foot. Check daily for discoloration in the skin or nails, unusual lumps or bumps, or other abnormal changes.

Charcot Foot

Charcot Foot is the breakdown of the bones in your foot and ankle due to severe Neuropathy. The deformities that develop from Charcot foot are serious and will be permanent—or result in an amputation—unless they are treated. The sooner you notice and manage the condition, the more likely it can be treated successfully with conservative methods.

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Diabetic foot care is crucial for the health of your feet, ankles and overall well-being. Don’t cut corners or take your feet for granted when you struggle with diabetes. Investing in them now, before problems develop, can go a long way in preventing painful, avoidable issues.

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