How Does Diabetes Affect Feet?
How does diabetes affect feet?
Diabetes can cause extensive damage and distress throughout the entire body, especially when the disease is not well controlled. Over the long term, consistently high levels of sugar in the blood can contribute to a range of complications, from eye and ear damage, to skin problems, to kidney damage, and more. Another notable victim? Your feet.
Feet are particularly vulnerable to damage mainly as a consequence of two common diabetic complications:
- Peripheral vascular disease. High blood sugar is correlated with poor blood flow. The peripheral arteries and veins—far from the heart, near the extremities—are usually the first and most seriously affected. Without good blood flow to your feet, it takes longer for cuts and sores to heal, and longer for the immune system to respond to infections.
- Peripheral neuropathy. At the same time that circulation declines, peripheral nerves in the feet and lower limbs begin to suffer damage. Inflammation pinches them, while the circulatory system can’t deliver the nutrients they need. When nerves lose the ability to report pain, heat, or cold back to the brain, you could seriously injure yourself and not even realize it.
As you can see, this is an extremely dangerous combination. Infections have more opportunity (because wounds can’t close) and less resistance (because the immune system is compromised). And you can’t rely on your senses to alert you.
The most serious ultimate complications of diabetes are diabetic ulcers and Charcot foot. Ulcers—pressure wounds that won’t close—need to be treated promptly, or else they may become so seriously infected that an amputation is the only remaining option. And Charcot foot occurs when people with severe neuropathy continue to walk on already-broken bones, causing them to disintegrate and displace themselves further.
However, sufferers of diabetes are more likely to develop all kinds of foot conditions, particularly skin and nail problems like athlete’s foot, fungal nails, cracked heels, warts, corns and calluses, and more. And while something like athlete’s foot might not pose much more than an irritation in an otherwise healthy individual, they are riskier if you have diabetes.
Fortunately, the most serious possible foot complications associated with diabetes can almost always be prevent. Just remember to take good care of yourself and be vigilant:
- Be disciplined about managing your diabetes—check your glucose regularly, eat right, exercise, and live as healthy a life as you can.
- Examine your feet for problems thoroughly at least once per day.
- Check in with a podiatrist at least once a year for routine foot health screenings and preventative care.
If it’s time for your screening—or especially if you have any problems or concerns to report—please call Family Foot & Ankle Care of Jasper right away. You can reach us at (812) 481-7200.