If you have Type II diabetes, there’s a good chance you may develop problems with your feet.
Many people with diabetes battle obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. As a result, they often develop:
- Poor circulation in their feet and legs
- Neuropathy, or the loss of sensation in their feet
J. Marshall Devall, DPM, Podiatrist at the Temple Santa Fe Center, discusses diabetic foot problems and offers his three top tips for diabetic foot care.
Poor circulation is dangerous, Dr. Devall explains, because blood carrying oxygen or antibiotics won’t reach your legs or feet to help heal wounds there.
And neuropathy is dangerous because when you can’t feel your feet, you won’t know a wound is developing there, as you won’t feel pain, your body’s normal trigger telling you something’s wrong.
“You should be seen once a year for a complete evaluation.”
With poor circulation and loss of sensation in your feet, it’s easy for ulcerations (or chronic wounds) to develop. These diabetic foot ulcers develop when you get a small sore on the sole of your foot, and with poor circulation, oxygenated blood (or antibiotics) doesn’t make it there to help it heal; or with neuropathy, you’re unaware you have a wound and it festers and grows.
Diabetic foot ulcers are the primary cause of hospitalization for people with diabetes. They’re also “a contributing factor in more than 85 percent of all diabetes-related amputations,” says Dr. Devall.
To help prevent the foot problems associated with diabetes, Dr. Devall offers these three tips for diabetic foot health:
1. See a podiatrist.
- Your podiatrist will professionally examine your feet.
- Your podiatrist will place you in a risk category.
- Your podiatrist will make recommendations on your future care.
“You should be seen once a year for a complete evaluation to check everything from circulation to nerve supply to everything. Your podiatrist will then put you in a risk category,” explains Dr. Devall.
“The risk category system is a paradigm for treatment. Risk Level 0 means you have good circulation and no loss of protective sensation; you have pretty good feet,” says Dr. Devall.
“Risk Level 3, on the other hand, means you have previous ulceration, where we would be wanting to see you, depending on what the problem is,” details Dr. Devall, “anywhere from every month to every three months.”
2. Don’t manage wound care on your own.
- Don’t treat open wounds, stickers, burrs, splinters, etc., “as people did in the 1800s when the doctor was in town and you just poured kerosene on it. We don’t live in that day and age,” Dr. Devall says.
- Foot wounds in patients with diabetes can progress from minor to serious very quickly; seek immediate professional treatment from your primary care physician or podiatrist when you have a sore or wound on your foot.
“If you’re worried, you need to be seen. If it’s an emergent problem, we’ll work you in within 24 hours,” says Dr. Devall.
3. For younger patients: Your disease of diabetes is not that of your parents and grandparents.
- Even though you may have seen your older family members lose their limbs or their lives to diabetes, that is not your destiny, says Dr. Devall.
- Many advances in the management of diabetes have been made. You can take control of your disease.
- With diet and exercise, you can bring about a good outcome.
“A lot of our younger patients feel doomed. We try to encourage them. It doesn’t have to be that way. Have hope,” says Dr. Devall.