Foot problems are a frequent complication in people with diabetes. Chronically high blood sugar levels, over time, can lead to nerve damage (neuropathy) and poor blood flow to the feet (peripheral vascular disease) over time, resulting in a variety of foot problems. Nerve damage can lead to numbness and a loss of sensation in the feet, thereby making it difficult for diabetics to feel pain, heat, or cold in their feet. This can result in unnoticed and untreated foot injuries, which can then progress to more serious foot problems. Poor blood flow can also delay the healing of foot injuries and infections.
Common Symptoms of diabetic foot
Here are some common symptoms of diabetic foot:
· Numbness or tingling in the feet: Diabetic neuropathy can lead to decreased sensation in the feet. This can make it difficult to detect injuries, such as cuts or blisters, and may lead to delayed treatment.
· Slow healing of wounds: People with diabetes may experience slower wound healing, which can increase the risk of infection. This is due to poor circulation and immune system function.
· Foot ulcers: Foot ulcers are open sores that can occur on the bottom of the feet or between the toes. They may be painless or only mildly painful but can become infected if left untreated.
· Redness, swelling, or warmth in the feet: These symptoms may indicate an infection, which requires prompt medical attention.
· Changes in skin color or texture: People with diabetic foot may experience changes in skin color, texture, or temperature due to poor circulation and nerve damage.
· Foot pain or cramping: Diabetic neuropathy can cause pain or cramping in the feet, which may worsen at night.
Common Foot Complications
If left untreated, diabetic foot can lead to serious complications. Some common foot complications that people with diabetes may experience include:
§ Diabetic neuropathy: This is a condition that causes nerve damage in the feet, resulting in numbness, tingling, and pain.
§ Peripheral vascular disease: This condition reduces blood flow to the feet, causing pain, cramping, and slow healing of foot injuries.
§ Foot ulcers: These are open sores on the feet caused by nerve damage and poor blood flow.
§ Calluses and corns: These are thickened areas of skin on the feet caused by pressure or friction.
§ Ingrown toenails: These are caused by the edge of a toenail growing into the skin, causing pain, redness, and swelling.
§ Foot deformities: Although rare, people with diabetes may develop foot deformities, such as Charcot foot, which can cause changes in the shape and structure of the foot.
§ Gangrene: This occurs when tissues, muscle, and the skin in the foot die as a result of a lack of blood flow. If left untreated, it can lead to amputation of the damaged toe, foot, or part of your leg.
Early detection and prompt medical intervention is crucial to prevent further damage. Here are some tips to help prevent and manage diabetic foot complications:
§ Regular foot exams: People with diabetes should have their feet examined by a healthcare professional at least once a year, even if you haven’t noticed a problem. This can help detect any issues early on and prevent complications.
§ Good foot hygiene: It is important to keep the feet clean and dry to prevent infection. This includes washing the feet daily with soap and warm water and drying them thoroughly, especially between the toes. Avoid soaking your feet since it will lead to dryness of skin.
§ Moisturize: Applying a moisturizer to the feet can help prevent dryness and cracking, which can lead to infection. However, it is important to avoid applying moisturizer between the toes, as this can increase the risk of infection.
§ Wear comfortable footwear: Shoes should fit well and be comfortable to prevent rubbing and pressure on the feet. It is important to avoid wearing tight or pointed shoes, as these can cause blisters and sores.
§ Inspect your feet daily: People with diabetes should inspect their feet daily for any signs of redness, swelling, blisters, sores, warts or other spots. If any issues are detected, seek medical attention immediately.
§ Control blood sugar levels: Keeping blood sugar levels under control can help prevent nerve damage and improve circulation in the feet.
§ Quit smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of foot complications, as it can reduce circulation and impair wound healing.
In summary, it is critical that diabetes patients take good care of their feet in order to avoid these foot problems. This includes inspecting their feet on a regular basis for signs of injury or infection, thoroughly washing and drying their feet, wearing well-fitting shoes and socks, and avoiding walking barefoot. If any foot problems do arise, it is important to immediately seek medical attention to prevent them from worsening.