Do you have diabetes? If so, did you know that checking your feet every day – even if they feel fine – and seeing your doctor if you have a cut or blister that isn’t healing are THE two things you can do that will allow you to stand on your own two feet? As a diabetic, to achieve your optimum health, you know that you must manage your diabetes by checking your blood sugar, making healthy food choices, taking time to be active, taking medicines and seeing your doctor on a regular basis. However, did you also know it is as important for you check your feet daily? “Foot care is one of the best ways to prevent foot complications that can often occur among diabetics, said Steve Wolfington, DPM, FACFAS, Sheboygan Foot Care, LLC. “Vascular diseases that prevent blood flow to the small blood vessels are common for diabetics and nerve damage can occur in people with longstanding diabetes,” said Dr. Wolfington. Since restricted blood flow and nerve damage can affect your feet, regular visits to a podiatrist is advised. “It is recommended that people with type 1 diabetes visit a podiatrist for an annual foot exam beginning five years after their diagnosis and people with type 2 diabetes visit a podiatrist annually beginning at diagnosis.”
During a diabetic’s visit Dr. Wolfington conducts a comprehensive foot examination to look for any abnormalities, including an evaluation of pulses, sensation, foot biomechanics (i.e., general foot structure and function), and nails. He will also assess the patient’s footwear and help determine his/her risk for developing foot complications.
Persons with diabetes who are at high risk for developing foot complications have one or more of the following characteristics. • Loss of protective sensation • Absent pedal pulses • Foot deformity • History of foot ulcers • Prior amputation
Low-risk individuals have none of these characteristics. “An assessment of risk is performed at each patient visit to help identify the people who need more intensive care and evaluation,” said Dr. Wolfington. During the risk factor assessment, patients remove their socks and shoes so that both feet can be examined to detect any acute problems. “More in-depth patient education is the key in preventing low-risk patients from moving into the hi-risk category and the best way to achieve this is for the low-risk patients to manage their A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol and, if they smoke or use tobacco to STOP.”
Anyone with diabetes can develop nerve damage, but the following factors increase your risk.
• Blood sugar levels that are hard to control
• Having diabetes for a long time, especially if your blood sugar is often higher than your target levels
• Being overweight
• Being older than 40 years
• Having high blood pressure
• Having high cholesterol Nerve damage, along with poor circulation, which is another complication of diabetes, puts you at risk for developing a foot ulcer (a sore or wound) that could become infected and not heal well. Diabetes may reduce a person’s ability to heal from blisters and cuts, even minor ones. That is why by checking your feet daily you will catch problems early and get them treated. “If an infection doesn’t get better with treatment, your toe, foot, or part of your leg may need to be amputated to save your life and prevent the infection from spreading,” said Dr. Wolfington.
A podiatrist helps you learn how to manage and understand the importance of proper foot care. While podiatrist visits do not take the place of your daily foot checks, he/she will monitor and assess your risk and treat problems as soon as they arise. “Daily foot checks, early treatment and regular appointments with your podiatrist are the keys that will keep you standing on your own two feet,” said Dr. Wolfington.