It is never too early to practice diabetic foot care. More than half of all lower limb amputations in the United States occur in people with diabetes. In fact, more amputations result from diabetes than accidents, and it is estimated that proper foot care could have prevented nearly half. That's why it is important to understand the risk factors. Be assertive, be involved, and take a preventative approach to diabetic foot care.
Diabetes increases the level of sugar in the blood. An increased level of blood sugar for a long period of time can cause two problems that can hurt your feet: nerve damage and poor blood flow.
- Nerve Damage: High blood sugar can damage the nerves that send messages to your legs and feet. Damage to these nerves can cause shooting pains, burning or tingling (pins and needles), and a loss of feeling. A loss of feeling means that you may have trouble feeling pain, heat or cold. If you cannot feel pain, heat, or cold it is very easy to damage your feet. A minor injury like a blister, cut, or sore can become much worse if you do not know it is there. Untreated injuries to the feet can become infected and cause muscle, tendon, and/or bone damage. In severe cases, amputation can also result. For people with diabetes, foot care is imperative because of the risk of nerve damage and loss of feeling.
- Poor Blood Flow: High blood sugar can also cause the arteries that carry blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the legs and feet to harden and narrow. Damage to these arteries reduces blood flow to the legs and feet and can cause leg pain. Poor blood flow can make it hard for a sore or infection to heal. The medical name for this disorder is peripheral vascular disease (PVD), and it is estimated that 8-12 million older adults in the United States have PVD.
Prevention Lies with Diabetic Foot Care
The first step to preventing diabetic foot care complications is to follow your doctor's advice for keeping your diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Call your doctor for complete foot care instructions for your diabetes, and work to establish a diabetic foot care routine that works best for you.
This is only general information and is not meant for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Always consult your physician or other health care provider about all health concerns, conditions, and recommended treatments.