Today's podiatrist plays a key role in helping patients manage diabetes successfully and avoid foot-related complications. Click here to learn more →
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is the inability to manufacture or properly use insulin, and it impairs the body's ability to convert sugars, starches and other foods into energy. The long-term effects of elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can lead to serious damage to the eyes, heart, kidney, nerves and feet. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes affects the lives of nearly 29 million people in the United States and nearly eight million don't even know they have the disease yet.
While there is no cure for diabetes, there is hope. With proper diet, exercise, medical care and careful management at home, a person with diabetes can avoid the most serious complications and enjoy a full and active life. Today's podiatrist plays a key role in helping patients manage diabetes successfully and avoid foot-related complications.
- Diabetes warning signs include the following:
- skin color changes,
- swelling of the foot or ankle,
- numbness in the feet or toes,
- pain in the legs,
- open sores on the feet that are slow to heal,
- ingrown and fungal toenails,
- bleeding corns and calluses,
- dry cracks in the skin, especially around the heel.
VISIT A PODIATRIST
Because diabetes is a disease affecting many parts of the body, successful management requires a team approach. Podiatrists are an integral part of the treatment team and have documented success in preventing amputations*:
- More than 65,000 lower limbs are amputated annually due to complications from diabetes.
- After an amputation, the chance of another amputation within three to five years is as high as 50 percent.
- Including a podiatrist in your diabetes care can reduce the risk of lower limb amputation up to 85 percent and lowers the risk of hospitalization by 24 percent.
The keys to amputation prevention are early recognition and regular foot screenings performed by a podiatrist, the foot and ankle expert.
If you have diabetes, follow these foot care tips:
- Inspect feet daily. Check your feet and toes every day for cuts, bruises, sores, or changes to the toenails, such as thickening or discoloration.
- Wear thick, soft socks. Avoid socks with seams, which could rub and cause blisters or other skin injuries.
- Exercise. Walking can keep weight down and improve circulation. Be sure to wear appropriate athletic shoes when exercising.
- Shoes that fit. Have new shoes properly measured and fitted. Foot size and shape may change over time. Shoes that fit properly are important to those with diabetes.
- Don't go barefoot. Don't go without shoes, even in your own home. The risk of cuts and infection is too great for those with diabetes.
- Avoid self-removal. Never try to remove calluses, corns, or warts by yourself. Over-the-counter products can burn the skin and cause irreparable damage to the foot for people with diabetes.
- See a podiatrist. Regular checkups by a podiatrist—at least annually—are the best way to ensure that your feet remain healthy.
YOU CAN OUTSMART DIABETES
Of the more than 29 million people in the U.S. with diabetes, about half, will develop neuropathy - a loss of feeling in the lower extremities. This nerve damage means an open sore or injury on the foot may go unnoticed until it becomes infected, which can eventually lead to the need for partial or full amputation of the foot or lower leg. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower-limb amputation.
However, while the risk of foot complications may be frightening, there are many ways in which YOU can help outsmart diabetes!
Take a step in the right direction by having your feet checked regularly by a podiatrist. Podiatrists are the most qualified doctors to care for your feet, based on their education, training, and experience! When you add a podiatrist to your health-care team, he or she can provide you with important information so you're able to better manage the effects of diabetes on your feet.
Whether you've recently been diagnosed or have been fighting the disease for years, the resources below will help you to monitor your feet and prevent complications.