Diabetes has an effect on just about every part of your body and every area of your health — including your feet. Having a board-certified podiatrist on your healthcare team is one of the best ways to avoid serious complications. Here’s why.
More than 37 million Americans have diabetes, a chronic disease that affects the way your body manages blood sugar (glucose). What’s more, every one of those 37 million people has increased risks for serious foot infections and, ultimately, amputations.
Data show as many as 25% of people with diabetes will go on to develop a deep foot sore called a diabetic foot ulcer. Every year, about 140,000 diabetes-related amputations are performed in the United States.
Alarming? Yes. But the good news is, diabetic foot ulcers can be prevented. The key is having a board-certified podiatrist on your diabetes management healthcare team.
As part of American Diabetes Month, Rachel Hensley, DPM, Weston Angermeier, DPM, and the team at Richmond Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates want patients in Richmond, Virginia, to understand the importance of diabetic foot care. Here’s why having a board-certified podiatrist on your healthcare team is essential.
Diabetes and your feet
Glucose is a source of energy for your cells that helps them to function as they should. But with diabetes, glucose levels rise uncontrollably, increasing the risk of serious complications, including kidney damage, vision loss, foot problems, and other health issues.
Diabetic foot problems happen for several reasons. First, elevated glucose levels can damage your nerves, making it hard to feel foot pain and injury. High glucose levels can damage your blood vessels, too, interfering with the circulation that helps your feet heal after an injury. Diabetes also causes changes in your skin that makes it more prone to cuts and abrasions.
Taken together, all these diabetes-related changes not only increase your risk of foot injuries, but they also interfere with the way those injuries heal. Even relatively minor problems, like a tiny cut, blister, ingrown toenail, or corn, can lead to a potentially dangerous foot ulcer that increases the risks of deep infection and amputation.
The important role of your podiatrist
Because diabetes damages your nerves, you may not even know you have an infection in your foot until serious tissue damage occurs. Having a regular foot exam is one of the best ways to protect your feet and prevent complications.
During an exam, your doctor performs a careful examination of your feet, paying attention to any areas of abraded skin or damaged nails. You’ll also be asked about any symptoms you may have, such as:
- Sharp foot pain
- Tingling or numbness
- Decreased feeling in any area of your foot
- Burning sensations
- Pain when walking
- Swelling in your feet or ankles
All of these can be symptoms of diabetes, and reporting them to your doctor as early as possible is critical for preventing serious tissue damage, even if you don’t have an active sore.
Board-certified podiatrists, like Dr. Hensley and Dr. Angermeier, have additional training in diabetic foot care, which means that in addition to providing state-of-the-art care for foot problems, they’re also skilled at preventive strategies to help you keep your feet healthy.
Regular preventive exams should be part of your diabetes management plan, along with glucose control, eye exams, and other important preventive care options.
Schedule a diabetic foot exam today
Because diabetes can damage your nerves, it can be very difficult to recognize foot problems in their earliest stages. Having regular diabetic foot exams with a board-certified expert is essential for spotting issues early, so they can be treated right away.
American Diabetes Month is an ideal time to make diabetic foot care a priority. To schedule your diabetic foot exam, call 804-358-9031 or book an appointment online with the team at Richmond Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates today.