If you have diabetes, we probably don’t need to tell you that you should be taking extra special care with your feet. But even those who’ve lived with the disease for many years may not fully appreciate the risks it poses for their long-term health and independence, especially if the most serious complications occur.
Among other things, diabetes can cause your circulation—particularly far from your heart, in the extremities—to slow significantly. That reduced blood flow means that toes and feet might not get the nourishment they need, and it also means that injuries (such as cuts, blisters, and other nicks) may be much slower to heal and develop into diabetic wounds or ulcers.
Complicating matters, extra sugar in the bloodstream can damage nerves significantly, causing them to misfire with tingling or burning sensations—or shut off completely. So not only do you not heal as quickly, but you might not even feel pain when something is wrong. You could walk on a severe injury for hours before discovering the truth!
This is typically what’s behind the most serious of diabetes complications. As injuries become wounds, and wounds become infected, and the infection spreads to other tissues, there is a greatly increased risk of permanent tissue death. In many cases amputation—whether it’s a toe, a whole foot, or even part of the leg—or a riskier limb salvage surgery may then be your only recourse against the spread of a mortal threat.
Another serious complication, Charcot foot, emerges as weakened bones grind and break due to stress. Because serious neuropathy prevents the sensation of pain, a person with Charcot foot continues to walk, and the fractures and dislocations become worse and worse. The end result can be severe disfigurement and loss of mobility.
Although there is currently no known cure for diabetes, the good news is that virtually all of the significant complications that can arise are highly preventable. It’s quite possible to live a full, healthy, active life with diabetes and protect your feet from serious nerve damage, wounds, or amputation.
However, the flipside is that complacency is not an option. Prevention is possible, but it demands discipline and vigilance. In addition to carefully managing your glucose levels and daily foot checks and self-care, we also highly recommend you stop by and visit us at least once per year for a comprehensive diabetic foot checkup. To schedule your appointment with Family Foot & Ankle Center, please call us today at 888-689-3317.