Diabetes and Foot Problems

Did you know, worldwide over 425 million people suffer from complications of diabetes? In a non-diabetic, insulin facilitates the movement of glucose from the blood to the liver, muscle or fat cells for storage and energy. In type 2 diabetics, insulin cannot properly bind to transport glucose. In type 1 diabetics, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough or any insulin.

Without insulin, sugar builds up in the blood while the cells that need it starve. These sugars attempt to breakdown in the blood and some of the byproducts become a dangerous metabolite called methylglyoxal. Methylglyoxal can cause injury to the blood vessels by attaching to LDL cholesterol and damaging the normal pliability of our arteries leading to high blood pressure and plaque in the arteries. Methylglyoxal can also affect retinal tissue leading to blindness, nerve tissue in the legs and feet leading to neuropathy, and can slow down normal wound healing. Good sugar control with diet, exercise, and insulin or oral medication when needed is important to preventing secondary illnesses.        

How can diabetes affect your feet?

Dr. Ariel Lepoff
Figure 1. Dr. Ariel Lepoff

Foot problems are common in people with diabetes. Diabetes can result in severe foot complications that require multiple surgeries and may result in amputation of one or more toes or even limb loss.

You might be afraid you’ll lose a toe, foot, or leg to diabetes, or know someone who has, but you can lower your chances of having diabetes-related foot problems by taking care of your feet every day. Managing your blood glucose levels, also called blood sugar, can also help keep your feet healthy.

Diabetes also can lower the amount of blood flow in your feet. Not having enough blood flowing to your legs and feet can make it hard for a sore or an infection to heal. Sometimes, a bad infection never heals.

Figure 1. Dr. Ariel Lepoff performing a screening test to identify diabetic patients at risk of foot ulcers and amputations.

Follow these tips to help ensure your feet stay healthy:

  • Check your feet every night for wounds or cuts.  Use a mirror to check the bottom of your foot and don’t forget to check in between the toes.
  • Apply moisturizer to dry skin daily, avoiding in between the toes.
  • Wash your feet daily with soap and water and dry thoroughly especially in between your toes.
  • Avoid cutting or peeling calluses and seek treatment by a podiatrist.
  • Wear shoes with a wide toe box and avoid walking barefoot.
  • Seek medical help immediately if you notice any cuts, bleeding, or any signs of redness, swelling, warmth, or have pain.
  • Have your foot assessed regularly by a podiatrist. It is important to have a routine exam to ensure that there is enough blood flow to the feet as well as normal nerve function and sensation.

Talk to a podiatrist

If you have diabetes, schedule an appointment today with Dr. Ariel Lepoff at The Medical Group of South Florida for a comprehensive diabetic foot examination.

Dr. Lepoff’s services include bunions, hammertoes, heel pain, tendonitis, warts, calluses, sports injuries, foot and ankle fractures, ingrown toenails, wound care, neuromas, diabetic foot care, and so much more! 

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