Here is yet another common complication of having diabetes. Diabetic foot problems can get very ugly. In fact amputations are a very common medical response to treat ongoing problems in the feet.
As we know diabetes is a leading cause of a range of long term problems in the body including cardiovascular disease, problems with the kidneys, the liver and vision problems. Humans have a lot of smaller blood vessels in the feet, as such blood flow can be restricted to this area, this is where diabetic foot problems arise.
As mentioned the small blood vessels in the feet can make diabetic foot problems all too common. This can affect both type 1 and type 2 diabetics. It is especially troublesome if your blood sugar levels go un-managed for a prolonged period of time. This is because high blood sugar levels can impact the blood supply to these smaller blood vessels and make circulation impossible in some cases.
Keep a close eye on your feet
You must pay close attention to any signs of infection on your feet. Even sore or swollen feet can be a sign of potential diabetic foot problems. The damage to the nerves in your feet can cause you to lose feeling. That may mean that you are not be able to feel if you have a cut or even a blister on your feet or toes. This can lead to ulcers and or infections which fail to heal which can lead to very serious infections. It may be prudent to check in with a podiatrist once a year to stay on top of any potential issues that may arise in the feet.
Conditions that affect the feet
There are two main conditions that affect the feet for diabetics – diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. Both of these conditions can have a negative impact on the feet and other parts of the body for diabetics.
Diabetic neuropathy becomes chronic when diabetes is left untreated. This condition causes nerve damage that makes it difficult to sense pain and temperature. This makes it difficult for a diabetic to detect any problems that may arise from problems in the feet including sores and cuts which can turn into a serious infection. It is estimated that approximately 10% of diabetics will develop foot ulcers that may go unnoticed.
Peripheral vascular disease
This can see poor circulation in certain parts of the body which increases the time sores and wounds take to heal properly. Peripheral vascular disease is named as such as it tends to strike in the arms and legs of diabetics. Poor blood flow to the feet elevates the chances of ulcers and even gangrene.
Other issues include:-
This is a fungal infection. Cracked skin, redness and itching are conditions associated with athlete’s foot. Antifungal medications maybe needed to treat this condition.
Fungal nail infection
This may be recognised through changes in the thickness and colour of the nail. Generally the infected nail will crumble or move away from the rest of the nail. The colour will also seem to turn yellow. In worst case scenarios surgery may be required to remove the infected areas if oral medications have no effect.
Calluses see a hardness or thickness of skin that build up on the bottom of the feet. You can rub the area with pumice stone after a hot shower or bath to a defence
Corns , blisters, ingrown toenails and bunions
All these conditions need to be treated and monitored carefully so that they do not turn into anything more sinister.
To boil it down keep an eye open for the following –
- Any numbness or pins and needles in the feet and legs
- Changes in the colour of the skin or temperature in the feet
- Coldness or burning pains in the feet and legs (especially at night)
- Swelling in the feet or lower legs
- Pain in the feet or lower legs
- Unusual foot odour
- Open sores that fail to heal in a timely fashion
Prevention of diabetic foot problems
The first place to start to avoid any complications of having diabetes is to manage your diet and exercise, this can ensure that you are maintaining a healthy weight. Also be sure to take your prescribed medication at all times. Other action you can take to avoid complications include –
- Carefully inspecting your feet
- Seeing a podiatrist once or twice a year can be a very sensible option, especially in older age.
- Clipping toenails regularly
- Wearing proper socks, even medical socks that can improve circulation. Get shoes that are comfortable and fit properly
- Wiggle and flex your toes regularly to ensure adequate circulation. Raising or elevating your feet when sitting down is also good for them.
- Quit smoking. Smoking narrows and hardens the arteries and adds to the chances of diabetic foot problems
The easy foot feather test
To ensure that you have no nerve damage or developing problems in the feet you can get someone to give you the feather test. It maybe possible for you to do it yourself if you can trust yourself not to cheat.
You do the foot feather test by looking away from your feet while you or someone touches your feet very gently with a feather or other soft object. You call out or make a note when you can feel the feather’s touch on your skin. This can act as an early warning if you lose sensations in your feet. It is a test that I learned from my podiatrist and one I do on myself many times a year.
Taking care of your feet should be a high priority for diabetics across the globe. The alternative is a potential loss of limbs. You should see a podiatrist for a comprehensive check up on your feet at least once a year to safeguard you against potential problems. The easy foot feather test that I have defined above is a good way to ensure that you have healthy circulation and sensations in your feet.
Please also see my other brief blog post on foot problems.
Please also see my blog post about diabetes and erectile dysfunction
If you have or know anyone that has had diabetic foot problems or even if you are concerned about them please reach out by getting in touch below.