The Importance of a Podiatrist in Your Diabetes Care
When your doctor draws blood during your annual check-up one of the things he or she is looking for is diabetes. The inability of a body to properly process sugar, this serious chronic disease can affect almost anyone and at almost any age—and sadly is on the rise. If the results of your test indicate diabetes, you need a podiatrist on your team.
Why is diabetes a problem for your feet? Over time the fluctuation in blood sugar levels in uncontrolled diabetes can damage your nerves, leading to peripheral neuropathy, or loss of feeling in your hands and feet (neuropathy can also be accompanied by tingling, burning, or a feeling some patients describe as bugs crawling across their feet).
Neuropathy isn’t the direct cause of foot problems, but it can indirectly contribute to problems so severe that amputation may be the only solution. Without reliable feeling in your feet you are much more susceptible to accidents and injury; because you can’t feel sores when they begin you are also at greater risk from infections. Add to that the poor circulation and impaired kidney function that can go along with diabetes, and every injury to your foot will take longer to heal. If you have neuropathy you are also at greater risk of degenerative arthropathy, also sometimes called Charcot joint, a serious but painless condition that generally affects the bones and joints of the mid part of the foot and can ultimately cause the structure of a foot to collapse. If you have developed Charcot, a podiatrist can help by prescribing anti-inflammatories and possibly putting the foot in a cast or advising special supportive shoes.
The impaired circulation that often accompanies diabetes is another problem. Be sure to let your doctor know if you experience cramps in your legs or toes, particularly at night (called “rest pain”). The cramps may be the signal that your circulatory system isn’t able to do its job properly; worst-case scenario, your feet could become so starved of oxygen and nutrients that gangrene sets in. Other things to watch out for and talk to your podiatrist about:
- Swelling: If your shoes have gotten tighter it may be because the tiny blood vessels in your feet are damaged and are leaking fluid into the surrounding tissues.
- Open Sores: When you have diabetes even a small blister can turn into a big infection fast. Particularly if the sore is oozing and painful, or if your foot is hot call your podiatrist immediately.
- Change of color: Any unusual color, especially around a sore spot, is worth paying attention to because it could be another sign of infection. Again, call your doctor.
Bottom line: If you are diabetic, taking care of your feet is just as critical as checking your insulin daily. Get an assessment from a podiatrist as soon as you get a diagnosis of diabetes. After examining your feet to look for any signs of sores or ulcers your podiatrist will help you come up with a schedule of office visits and home self-care that can include daily inspection for changes in the health of your feet, good foot hygiene, and well-fitting shoes. Your doctor will probably also recommend a routine of daily exercises to keep the blood flowing to your feet and can start to treat any cracks, sores, and blisters that could provide an opening for infections to begin.
For more information about caring for your diabetic feet, please visit triadfoot.com Triad Foot & Ankle Center, a leading podiatric practice in the Triad with locations in Greensboro, Burlington, and Asheboro. To request an appointment please call (336) 375-6990 or click here to request an appointment time.
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