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How Diabetes Affects Your Feet

Apr 01, 2023

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When it comes to vascular and neurological complications of diabetes, your feet are the first to suffer. Learn about diabetes’ effects on your feet and what you can do to be proactive.

If you have diabetes, your primary care physician has probably advised you to get in touch with a podiatrist who knows feet and the potential impact of diabetes on how they function. This is due to the perpetual risk of foot complications that come with having diabetes –– at least if you don’t manage your condition well. 

Even if you’re diligent with sticking to your diabetes care plan, paying close attention to your feet is critical when you have diabetes of any kind. Elevated blood sugar can damage your nerves and blood vessels faster and more extensively than you might realize, but diabetic foot care can help you recover from those issues or prevent them in the first place. 

For residents of Munster and Crown Point, Indiana, the experts at North Point Orthopaedics provide advanced diabetic foot care and prevention. These services greatly reduce your risk of complications and can ultimately help you avoid foot or leg amputation.  

Foot complications

So, why exactly do diabetic foot care services like yearly comprehensive foot exams and prescription orthotics matter? These are a few of the greatest foot risks that come with diabetes:

Neuropathy — when you don’t know something’s wrong

Most people who have diabetes are familiar with neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that causes nerve dysfunction with symptoms like numbness and tingling. High blood glucose and high triglycerides are responsible for this damage, with roughly one-third to one-half of people with diabetes experiencing peripheral neuropathy in their lifetimes. 

The problem with neuropathy is that the numbness makes it too easy to ignore injuries and other complications that would cause pain in healthy nerves. Even a small injury or complication on your foot –– like a papercut or ingrown toenail –– doesn’t even cause a pinch. You might not realize it's there, and if you do, you might not consider it to be a big deal. 

Poor healing with PAD

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is another common foot complication of diabetes that can compound with neuropathy and lead to additional complications. This happens because those tiny injuries on your feet we mentioned before are not getting the adequate blood supply they need for proper healing. You might not notice them because of neuropathy, and they can grow instead of heal because of PAD.

Calluses, ingrown nails, and small skin injuries on your feet and lower legs run the risk of becoming ulcers because they don’t have enough blood supply to heal. As unsightly as it may be when you finally do notice it, you might not notice an ulcer for a long time because you don’t feel it, or it’s in a position where you don’t immediately see it. Diabetic foot ulcers often show up on the soles of your feet, which withstand most of the pressure when you stand and walk. 

Worsening ulcers

An untreated ulcer continues to grow without healing until you contact your podiatrist and receive the proper care. An untreated ulcer can become infected and eventually necrotic, and the worst possible scenario is needing an amputation because the infection is uncontrollable. 

If you visit North Point Orthopaedics with an infected diabetic foot ulcer, the team takes X-rays of your foot to make sure the infection hasn’t reached your bone. Fortunately, many infected ulcers can be treated with wound debridement and antibiotics, according to the type of infection identified with a culture of the wound. 

Being proactive with diabetic foot care

North Point Orthopaedics has the tools to manage existing diabetic foot complications and to prevent them before they happen. The most important step you can take is to book a comprehensive diabetic foot exam at least once a year so our team can examine your feet for any skin changes, injuries, and ulcers that need to be addressed. 

The team also advises you on how to keep your feet clean and complication-free. Beyond following your diabetes treatment plan closely, you can mitigate the risk of diabetic foot problems by:

  • Immediately reporting and treating concerns like calluses and ingrown toenails
  • Routinely trimming and caring for your toenails
  • Keeping your feet clean and dry at all times
  • Avoiding walking barefoot
  • Wearing comfortable and supportive shoes

If you need a little extra assistance, the team can provide custom orthotics, prescription diabetic shoes, and other helpful tools to support your feet. 

Call either of our offices today, or book an appointment online at North Point Orthopaedics for expert diabetic foot care any time. 

North Point Orthopaedics