People who have type one or type two diabetes must vigilantly check their feet for signs of poor health. Why? It’s because 15 percent of diabetics develop sores, infections, poor circulation, and nerve problems, which, if left untreated, can progress to limited mobility, tissue death, and amputation.
Below are signs of diabetic feet and how to routinely care for your lower extremities.
The Warning Signs in Diabetic Feet
Diabetics need to control high blood glucose levels and their complications–most notably impaired nerve function (neuropathy) and poor circulation (peripheral artery disease). These chronic conditions cause harmful symptoms gradually and insidiously as the person with diabetes may not notice sores, areas of friction, blisters, or even small cuts and bruises on the lower legs, ankles, and feet due to loss of sensation.
Infections can develop and progress to a dangerous condition called gangrene, or tissue death, within a matter of weeks or months without the diabetic being aware of the problem or the seriousness of the situation.
Here’s what to look for if you are diabetic and have neuropathy or impaired circulation:
- Numbness and tingling or complete loss of sensation
- Thinning or completely absent hair on the legs
- Dark, dusky skin
- Changes in calluses or corns
- A feeling that you are stepping on a small stone as you walk
- A change in foot shape (arches become flat, for example)
- Sharp pain
- Muscle weakness
- Excessive dryness and skin cracking
- Foul-smelling drainage
- Changes in the shape and texture of toenails
How To Protect Your Feet
If you are diabetic, the best thing you can do to prevent foot complications is to visit a podiatrist regularly. A podiatrist can assess your circulation, sensation, and reflexes and inspect your feet for potential ulcerations, infections, and other problems.
Further, your foot and ankle doctor can advise you on ways to treat wounds. Shoe orthotics and special footwear can also help you avoid or accommodate the more common deformities that may develop, such as clawed toes and hammertoes.
Finally, diabetics must take charge of their foot care at home. This includes:
- Monitoring blood sugars regularly
- Taking diabetic medications and eating a healthy diet
- Staying as active as possible
- Washing feet daily with warm water and soap and drying thoroughly
- Applying moisturizing lotion to all foot surfaces, except between the toes
- Avoiding ingrown toenails by trimming nails straight across
- Inspecting feet daily for redness, cracks, and sores
- Wearing shoes that fit properly and deliver good support
- Never going barefoot, even in the home
- Reporting any issues to a podiatrist right away
Your Diabetic Foot Doctors in Massachusetts And Rhode Island
At The Foot & Ankle Institute of New England, our team of professionals works with diabetic patients to keep their feet healthy. If you need a podiatrist to help you stay mobile and to avoid dangerous complications, please contact one of our three locations–Fall River, MA, Warwick, RI, or Middletown, RI, for a consultation. Drs. Criscione, Gallucci, and Rogers have the experience, skills, and compassion to help you. Or, arrange your visit by filling in our online appointment request form, and we will be in touch soon.