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Diabetes Overview

Published July 28, 2015

Diabetes is a serious metabolic disorder that can lead to prolonged levels of high blood sugar over an extended  period. These prolonged periods of high blood sugar can lead to significant health complications.  Most often, the complications present first in the feet. People with diabetes experience sensory or functional changes in their feet, increasing the risk for life threatening infections.

Neuropathy:

Neuropathy is the loss of sensation in the feet that can be one of the first signs of diabetes. It contributes to most diabetic complications. Diabetic neuropathy is the loss of sensation because of elevated blood sugar levels that cause nerve damage. Neuropathy decreases a person’s awareness and appreciation of pain and the ability to differentiate between hot and cold temperatures. This extensive nerve damage can be so severe that it can lead to neuropathic pain, which causes painful numbness and tingling in the feet. The loss of sensation in the feet can leave patients unaware of wounds and infections in their feet and increases  their overall health risk. 

The loss of sensation in the foot can cause diabetic patients to form calluses because of the body's inability to sense pressure points. Heavy callus formations also put the foot at risk for infection due to the increased pressure on the skin that can cause wounds to develop, known as pressure ulcers.

Neuropathy may also lead to dry skin of the foot because of the body’s inability to regulate sweat glands in the skin that affect moisture levels. It is imperative for diabetic patients to regularly apply high-quality moisturizers to their feet. 

Toe and other structural deformities of the foot can occur as a consequence of neuropathy. This happens because neuropathy can cause the muscles to function irregularly changing the way the feet function and may lead to structural changes. 

There are many sensory tests and examinations that doctors can perform such as Semmes-Weinstein Monofilament test as well as neurometer exams to diagnose and assess the level of nerve damage in the feet. Many primary care physicians refer patients to podiatrists for the evaluation and treatment of diabetes and its effects on the feet.

Peripheral Vascular Disease:

Poor circulation is also another complication of diabetes that is often noticed in the feet due to the distance from the heart to the toes. Diabetes can result in a hardening and narrowing of blood vessels in the body which leads to poor blood flow to the lower extremity. These changes in blood supply cause low healing rates for wounds and increase pain levels.

People who suffer from diabetes are at risk for severe infections and other foot complications. It is important for diabetics to have their feet checked annually and monitored by a podiatrist regularly to prevent complications of diabetes. A podiatrist can assess whether a person is at a high or low risk for diabetic foot complications. If you suffer from diabetes or have generalized pain of the foot, call today to make an appointment to see one of the Doctors at Progressive Foot Care.


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