Typical symptoms of diabetes can include:
- Urinating often
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling very hungry—even though you are eating
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Weight loss—even though you are eating more (type 1)
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)
People living with diabetes are prone to having foot problems, often because of two complications: nerve damage (neuropathy) and poor circulation. Neuropathy causes loss of feeling in your feet, taking away your ability to feel pain and discomfort, so you may not detect an injury or irritation. Poor circulation in your feet reduces your ability to heal, making it hard for even a tiny cut to resist infection. If not treated quickly and carefully, small foot problems can turn into serious complications in those with diabetes.
Diabetes-Related Foot & Leg Problems can include:
- Infections and ulcers (sores) that do not heal– Because of poor circulation and neuropathy in the feet, cuts or blisters can easily turn into ulcers that become infected and will not heal. This is a common—and serious—complication of diabetes and can lead to a loss of your foot, your leg, or even your life.
- Corns and calluses– When neuropathy is present, you cannot tell if your shoes are causing pressure and producing corns or calluses. Corns and calluses must be properly treated or they can develop into ulcers.
- Dry, cracked skin– Poor circulation and neuropathy can make your skin dry. This may seem harmless, but dry skin can result in cracks that may become sores and can lead to infection.
- Nail disorders– Ingrown toenails (which curve into the skin on the sides of the nail) and fungal infections can go unnoticed because of loss of feeling. If they are not properly treated, they can lead to infection.
- Hammertoes and bunions– Nerve damage affecting muscles can cause muscle weakness and loss of tone in the feet, resulting in hammertoes and bunions. If left untreated, these deformities can cause ulcers.
- Charcot foot– Charcot foot develops as a result of loss of sensation and an undetected broken bone that leads to destruction of the soft tissue of the foot. Because of neuropathy, the pain of the fracture goes unnoticed and the patient continues to walk on the broken bone, making it worse. This disabling complication is so severe that surgery, and occasionally amputation, may become necessary.
- Poor blood flow– In diabetes, the blood vessels below the knee often become narrow and restrict blood flow. This prevents wounds from healing and may cause tissue death.
What can you do to lower your risk of complications?
- Wash feet daily and dry thoroughly
- Keep your feet moisturized
- Inspect your feet on a regular basis- Watch for changes like temperature, skin color, pain, or swelling
- Keep feet warm
- Buy comfortable shoes that are not too tight or too loose
- Wear clean, dry socks and change them everyday
- See your Podiatrist regularly and have your circulation tested
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise
- Never use heating pads or hot water bottles
- Avoid smoking, as it reduces blood flow to your feet
- Never walk barefoot in order to protect your feet from harmful objects
Dr. Kylin Kovac and Dr. Jed Erickson plays a critical role in the prevention and management of complications of the foot in diabetics. Annual examinations by your Idaho Foot & Ankle Center podiatrist are vital for anyone with diabetes. They can provide a more thorough exam and detect any signs of changes, such as broken skin or ulcers that can be detrimental to the health of your feet and body. Dr. Kovac and Dr. Erickson can also check for areas of high pressure or loss of blood circulation. Contact us today to see what you can do now to keep your feet safe, strong, and healthy!
Some content provided by diabetes.org and The ACFAS.