The fourth Tuesday in March is Diabetes Alert Day, an annual one-day wake-up call from the American Diabetes Association to inform the public about the seriousness of diabetes, particularly when diabetes is undiagnosed or untreated. Most diabetes sufferers have type 2 diabetes. (Only about five percent of people diagnosed with diabetes have type 1.)
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
A person with type 2 diabetes does not utilize insulin correctly. (Type 1 means you don’t make any insulin at all.) With type 2, your pancreas attempts to produce extra insulin, but over time it isn’t able to make enough of it to keep your blood glucose within normal levels. Over the long term, elevated levels of blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can lead to serious damage to various parts of the body, including your feet.
What are the Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes?
Risk factors for ending up with type 2 diabetes include a family history of the disease, being over age 45, not paying attention to your weight, and not being physically active. The statistics relating to type 2 diabetes are alarming.
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that in 2015 30.3 million Americans were affected.
- Approximately 25 percent of adults with diabetes are unaware that they have it.
- 84.1 million Americans with above normal blood glucose levels have a condition called pre-diabetes. Nine out of ten adults with pre-diabetes aren’t aware that they have it.
Take this Diabetes Risk Test from the American Diabetes Association to find out if you may be at risk for diabetes or pre-diabetes.
What Does Diabetes Have to do with My Feet?
Unfortunately, even if your diabetes is under control, manifestations of the disease can show up in your feet. Diabetes can lead to poor blood flow in your feet, causing swelling, numbness, and sores. Diabetic related foot problems if left untreated can even lead to amputation. Below, you’ll find the main foot-related issues related to diabetes —
Nerve Damage (Diabetic Neuropathy)
Diabetes can damage the nerves in many parts of your body, including your legs and your feet. This means you will likely not feel cold, heat, or pain. This is problematic because if you don’t know that you have a sore or cut on your foot, you won’t be aware that your foot needs treatment. If left untreated, the sore or cut may become infected.
Approximately 10 percent of people with diabetes develop foot ulcers. Because the nerves in the foot are damaged, the foot muscles may not function properly. If the foot is misaligned, too much pressure may be placed on one area of the foot. This pressure combined with poor blood flow can cause ulcers to develop.
Blood Circulation Problems (Peripheral Arterial Disease)
Diabetes adversely affects blood flow. Without adequate blood flow, cuts, sores, and ulcers take longer to heal. The most severe development from a foot infection that will not heal is the death of tissue due to a lack of blood flow (gangrene).
How Should I Care for My Feet if I’m a Diabetic?
Most importantly, inspect your feet every day, and visit a podiatrist immediately if you get a foot injury. If you are unable to look at the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help. It’s essential that any injuries are caught and treated promptly. Seeing a podiatrist is vital to help prevent these problems and keep your feet in the best shape possible.
How Can a Podiatrist Help?
If you have diabetes, regular visits to your podiatrist are essential so that a complete foot exam can be carried out. A podiatrist should be part of your regular diabetes healthcare team. Here at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center, our podiatrists are trained to recognize and treat diabetes-related foot conditions. Seeing a podiatrist for foot care can reduce your chances of ever needing an amputation. So, don’t delay. Make an appointment with us today.