It’s important to know about diabetic conditions as they relate to foot health because they can create a perfect storm. Combining loss of protective sensation (diabetic neuropathy), restricted blood flow (peripheral arterial disease), and impaired immune system function puts you at risk for serious medical complications. These are all problems common for individuals who do not control their diabetes.
Our office can help you create a plan and take measures to keep your feet safe. The first step in protecting your lower limbs is to understand the potential risks they face.
Conditions Affecting Diabetic Feet
Neuropathy – It might seem odd to think of it in this way, but being able to feel pain is really a gift. This “gift of pain” warns you when problems begin and trigger the body to take appropriate action to resolve the problem. One of the consequences of heightened sugar levels is nerve damage (neuropathy). The nerves typically affected are peripheral nerves (the ones used for physical sensation).
There are other potential symptoms of neuropathy—burning, tingling, and electrical sensations (for example)—but the most concerning is numbness. When you are unable to feel cuts, scrapes, ingrown toenails, and other conditions, the skin can break down over time and become diabetic foot ulcers. These ulcers are a leading cause of limb amputation.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) – In this condition, artery walls start to become constricted or thickened, which leads to diminished blood flow throughout the body. The feet are already the farthest points on the body from the heart and oxygenated blood has the longest path to get down there. Diabetes can both cause and contribute to constricted blood vessels. This deprives your lower limbs of essential nutrients and oxygen for optimal health.
Charcot foot – Charcot foot is essentially an amputation that’s going to happen. In this severe foot deformity, both neuropathy and PAD have combined to create a situation wherein bones in your foot are fragile (since they are weakened from poor circulation) and break easily. Neuropathy takes away your ability to recognize the fact bones have broken, so you continue walking as you normal would. In turn, this leads to further damage and complete collapse of the foot.
Diabetic wounds – When you have diabetes, your immune system is compromised and wounds, even tiny ones, pose a major threat to your health and safety. With diabetic wounds, there is actually a 5-year mortality rate that is worse than the mortality rates for colon, breast, and prostate cancers, so an important part of responsible foot care for diabetes is preventing diabetic wounds from developing or re occurring. An accurate term would be “a recovering Diabetic ulcer” because of the potential for it to relapse.
Increased infection risk – This particular issue stems from elevated blood sugar in the blood stream. The high blood sugar levels basically make white blood cells lethargic and then they don’t fight back against infection (as they should). Since there is not a defense against it, the infection can grow and spread rapidly. A prime concern is gangrene (tissue death). There is no actual cure for gangrene, and it typically necessitates amputation.
The Diabetic Foot Care You Need
Once you’ve started taking the appropriate preventative measures, it is imperative you do not stop. It only takes a short amount of time to regress back to the previous, dangerous level, and not much beyond that to reach an even worse state.
Always remember, you may feel good while running high blood sugar levels, but that does not mean that bad things are not happening! Your best bet for avoiding a lower limb amputation is to control your blood sugar, look at your feet every day, and come in and see us. We can help you establish a diabetic foot care plan centered on preventative measures to keep you safe. Call us today at (317) 545-0505 for more information or to request an appointment with our Indianapolis office (found right next to Ft. Harrison State Park).