Diabetic Foot Care
How does diabetes affect my feet?
Unfortunately, diabetes is an epidemic in the United States, currently affecting over 30 million Americans! It is a leading cause of amputation, blindness, and kidney disease. With regards to the feet it can have disastrous consequences for two reasons.
Firstly, having elevated blood glucose over long periods of time can cause irreversible nerve damage in the feet and sometimes hands. This is called peripheral neuropathy. It can lead to tingling, burning pain, or even complete loss of feeling in the feet(numbness). When sensation is absent in the feet, something as simple as a poor fitting shoe or a pebble inside a shoe can result in a blister which can then become a wound, also called an ulcer(see our section on wound/ulcer care for more details on this). This acts as a portal of entry for bacteria which can then lead to infection. About 15% of diabetics will end up with a foot ulcer, many of which are preventable.
Secondly, diabetes can lead to blockage of the arteries that carry blood to the feet, heart, brain and elsewhere. In the feet and legs this lack of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues can cause muscle cramping (claudication), wounds that do not heal, and even gangrene. Smoking can have similar effects on the circulation so it is vitally important that you do not smoke if you are diabetic.