November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and never has it been more needed. A rapidly growing global epidemic, more than 30 million Americans (including more than a quarter of those over 65) and 400 million people worldwide have the disease, and those numbers are expected to swell significantly in the coming decades.
Diabetes can bring on a host of related illnesses, injuries, and complications, especially if you do not carefully manage your sugar levels. Your feet and ankles are particularly susceptible to problems, due to their distance from your heart and the way the disease impairs your circulatory system, damaging nerves and impairing your natural healing processes.
This double whammy underlies many of the more serious complications that arise from diabetes, which can include:
Neuropathy: Pervasive nerve damage in your feet can lead to pain, burning, tingling, or even complete loss of sensation. In this case, you may not notice a significant injury, burn, or other problem until the damage is extensive.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD), ulcers, and gangrene: Poor blood flow in the feet is common among diabetics. Without enough blood flow, even tiny cuts or nicks can become infected wounds (ulcers), or tissues could simply die without proper nutrition (gangrene).
Amputations: Over 25 million amputations are conducted every year in the United States, and good percentage of them are related to diabetic wounds and ulcers that become infected.
Charcot foot: For patients with serious neuropathy, foot bones and joints can weaken and collapse without any detectable pain. Continuing to walk on these broken feet changes their shape, leading to significant deformities. Permanent disability and amputation are common consequences.
Other common foot conditions: While foot deformities like bunions and hammertoes, infections like warts or fungal toenails, or skin conditions like corns and blisters may not be generally categorized as related to diabetes, people with the illness are more likely to get them due to weakened tissues and bones, poor circulation, and lack of sensation.
The situation may sound dire, and for those who aren’t carefully, it certainly can be. But the good news for diabetes sufferers is that these complications are all very preventable if you take good care of your feet, manage your sugar well, wear proper shoes, inspect your feet daily, and schedule yearly diabetic foot checkups with Family Foot and Ankle Center. To schedule an appointment at one of our six Greater Cincinnati locations, dial 888-689-3317 or contact us using our online form.