When you have diabetes, your body can’t control the level of sugar in your blood, which affects all aspects of your health, including your feet.
Normally, the hormone insulin transports glucose from the bloodstream into the body’s cells, but with diabetes, either you don’t produce enough insulin (Type 1) or your cells stop responding to insulin’s effects (Type 2).
At Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, our foot and ankle specialists offer diabetic foot care for our patients in and around the Chicago area. If you’re diabetic, you may not be aware of how your feet are affected. Here are three questions you should ask at your next appointment.
Diabetes and your feet
Glucose is essential to your body as an energy source, but high levels in the bloodstream can lead to a number of health problems, including poor circulation, a weakened immune system, and peripheral neuropathy.
The latter is impaired nerve function in the extremities, which presents as tingling, burning, numbness, and/or pain.
Your feet become more susceptible to injury because neuropathy impairs sensation, and poor circulation leads to even greater impairment. If you get a scrape or have an ingrown toenail, you may not be conscious of a problem before the foot becomes ulcerated and infected.
Foot infections are the most prevalent diabetes-related cause for hospitalization, and they can lead to amputation — more than 80% of diabetes-related amputations begin with a foot ulcer that doesn’t heal.
Other foot-related problems exacerbated by diabetes include:
- Athlete’s foot
- Ingrown toenails
Treating the underlying diabetes can help relieve these problems.
3 questions to ask at your diabetic foot care appointment
Here at Chicagoland Foot and Ankle, we take a comprehensive approach to evaluating and diagnosing your diabetes-related foot problems.
We also encourage our patients to be partners with us in their health journeys, asking questions about their condition and their care so they fully understand the situation. Here are three questions you should ask, along with our experts’ answers.
I have neuropathy — how can I tell if I have a foot problem?
Answer: You should inspect your feet every morning and evening for redness, swelling, blisters, cuts, or nail problems. When you cut your toenails, cut straight across and file the edges to prevent ingrown nails.
If you notice an infection in the foot or ankle, make an appointment with us as soon as possible. We’ll remove any damaged tissue and prescribe some combination of oral or topical antibiotics, dressings, and bandages.
How can I prevent infections from developing?
Answer: Always wash your feet using lukewarm water and a soft cloth or sponge, as hot water can scald, and the burn can become infected. Dry your feet by gently blotting and patting, making sure to dry between your toes.
Always wear clean, dry socks, and moisturize your feet to prevent cracking, but don’t moisturize between your toes, as that can lead to athlete’s foot.
What kind of shoes should I wear?
Answer: Never wear shoes that are so tight they irritate the skin and cause sores to develop. Diabetic shoes have wide toe boxes, extra depth, lots of padding, and no internal seams to rub your feet. Also, look into cushioned insoles that work in a similar fashion.
If you do develop a foot problem, like corns, calluses, or blisters, never try to treat it yourself; you need professional attention.
We recommend you schedule periodic foot exams to prevent complications from developing in the first place. To get started, call Chicagoland Foot and Ankle at any of our locations (Mount Greenwood or Portage Park areas of Chicago, as well as Orland Park and New Lenox, Illinois), or book online.