Diabetics And Common Foot Problems
People who have diabetes typically have many health issues, especially if the blood sugar levels aren't controlled well. One of the parts of the body diabetes can adversely affect is the feet. Here is what you need to know.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to produce or respond to insulin, which in turn leads to too high of a glucose—sugar—level. Some people are born with diabetes or develop it as a child, which is called Type 1, while others develop it over time, which is called Type 2. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, whereas Type 2 is typically caused by one's lifestyle, such as obesity and poor eating habits. Type 1 must be controlled with insulin while Type 2 may be controlled by diet.
Why Do Diabetics Develop Foot Issues?
Regardless of what type of diabetes one has, foot issues are common. This is especially true in people who have uncontrolled diabetes. Over time, the presence of excess glucose in the blood will cause nerve damage, which in turn leads to further complications that tend to affect the feet.
What Problems Do Diabetics Develop In Their Feet?
The nerve damage that high blood sugar causes results in a lack of feeling in the feet. A person's feet may feel numb, and they aren't able to sense pain, heat, or cold. This is called sensory diabetic neuropathy.
Peripheral vascular disease is another condition common in diabetics. This is where the person has poor blood circulation, especially to the arms and legs. When sensory diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease combine, it can cause many issues in the feet, and they each exacerbate the other.
- Foot Ulcers—Sensory diabetic neuropathy can lead to minor injuries of the feet. Unfortunately, people can't feel it when they cut the sole, for example. Because of the comorbid peripheral vascular disease, poor blood flow to the feet delays proper healing.
- Fungal Infections—Fungal infections of the toenails and feet, such as "Athlete's foot," are notoriously difficult to treat in healthy people. In the diabetic, they are even more difficult. The nails become thickened, yellow, and crumbly. They may even fall off completely or become infected. The limited number of drugs to treat fungal infections may be contraindicated in diabetics as they tend to cause liver and kidney strain.
- Plantar Warts—Plantar warts are caused by viruses. They are similar in appearance to callouses, but they can grow deep into the tissues of the sole, causing further nerve damage.
What Should Diabetics Do About Foot Issues?
Because a diabetic is often unaware of foot issues due to the lack of sensation, they should be regularly seen by a podiatrist such as those with Laurel Podiatry Associates, LLC. Infections are difficult to treat in the diabetic, therefore it is imperative they are well-managed to prevent even more problems. A podiatrist will inspect their feet for problems, trim their nails, and check their shoes for any issues they may be causing, such as rubbing.