Having diabetes makes you more likely to develop certain physical complications. Your feet are particularly vulnerable when you have diabetes since people with the condition are at increased risk of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and neuropathy – two conditions that cause nerve damage and circulation problems in your extremities. People with diabetes also have a higher risk of developing infections and a decreased ability to get rid of infections. The combined factors of poor circulation, loss of feeling, and a relatively high risk of infection makes diabetics more prone to frequent – and sometimes severe – foot problems. When diabetic foot problems are at their most severe, the only solution may be amputation of one or more toes, or, the entire foot.
How Diabetic Foot Problems Occur
There are a number of diabetes complications that can affect the toes and feet and eventually lead to the need for an amputation. These include:
Loss of feeling – Nerve damage from PAD causes a loss of sensation in the feet, reducing the ability to sense when the foot has been injured or irritated. Unattended foot wounds can quickly develop into a larger problem.
Poor circulation – Diabetes also damages blood vessels, decreasing the blood flow to the feet. Poor circulation from damaged blood vessels weakens bones and joints in the foot and ankle. As a result, people with diabetes are at a high risk for breaking bones in the feet.
Development of foot abnormalities – Nerve damage can also create motor problems with the foot which can warp and deform its natural shape. Conditions like Charcot foot – a severe foot deformity – contribute to the development of infection and ultimately lead to disability.
Foot injury and infections – With diabetes, the smallest foot blister, cut, or scrape can quickly turn into a severe infection that can be limb-threatening or life-threatening.
How to Prevent Amputation Due To Diabetes
Manage your health
Control the aspects of your health that can cause poor blood flow. Don’t smoke. Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. And of course, be sure to monitor and control your blood sugar by following your medication plan, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise.
Protect your feet from injury and infection
Wear properly fitted, comfy and protective shoes – avoid shoes that expose your feet or toes, and never walk barefoot. Wash and dry your feet thoroughly each day to keep infection-causing bacteria at bay. These tips for avoiding foot infections can also help.
Practice good foot care habits
Inspect your feet closely each day, keeping an eye out for red pressure spots, cracks in the skin, and early corns, calluses, or blisters. Have professional pedicures by a specialist in diabetic foot care, and follow our tips for a safe pedicure. Have your podiatrist show you how to safely groom your feet at home. Be sure you see your podiatrist regularly, especially if you have any existing foot problems or deformities.
Dr. Lamour and his staff have been providing diabetic foot care to Austin-area patients since 1997. Schedule your next foot checkup today to stay on track with your diabetic foot care routine.