Diabetes and Foot Health. How Does Diabetes Affect My Feet?

Diabetes is a very prevalent disease in the world today and especially in the United States. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) 29.1 million Americans (9.3% of the population) suffer from Diabetes.
The long-term effects of elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can lead to serious damage to the eyes, heart, kidney, nerves, and feet. In particular, the diabetic population, can develop what is known as peripheral polyneuropathy. In short, this results in the loss of protective sensation in our feet, which without prevention may result in ulceration of this skin. These ulcerations, if not cared for properly may lead to potential future amputations. Prevention with diabetic foot checks, early detection, and proper management of complications, is how we, as foot specialists are able to contribute and play a vital role in the management and care of the disease as it pertains to our foot health.
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.

Symptoms associated with our feet

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

Podiatry and Diabetes

Podiatry plays an integral part of the treatment team and has documented success in preventing amputations. Here are some alarming statistics which can be found on the APMA website regarding the role of podiatry as it pertains to diabetes and foot health.

  • 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.

 Foot Health Recommendations

The APMA has listed the following foot care tips, which we at Rocky Mountain Foot and Ankle also recommend to our diabetic patient population:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 your podiatrist regularly. Regular checkups by a podiatrist—at least annually—are the best way to ensure that your feet remain healthy.

Additional information is available from the American Diabetes Association.