Diabetic Foot Disorders
What is it?
Diabetes damages the nerves that help you detect sensations like pain. This nerve damage, or neuropathy, often affects peripheral body tissue first (i.e. your hands and feet). Peripheral neuropathy may first appear as tingling or numbness in your fingers and toes. Over time, the nerve damage causes a lack of feeling in the toes and feet. The lack of feeling in the foot opens the door for many problems including ulcers of the foot tissue, infections, and, in severe cases, amputations of the toes, feet and legs.
As part of your diabetes management, be sure to have your physician carefully examine your feet every year. However, self-management is the best way to prevent complications caused by diabetic neuropathy. This includes, keeping tight glycemic control, doing daily foot checks and wearing protective orthotics or diabetic shoes if warranted.
Diabetic ulcers are sores that develop in the soft tissue of the foot usually as a result of minor skin trauma or cumulative trauma in patients with loss of sensation in the foot. The lack of normal feeling in the foot means that these sores can exist without your feeling them. Ulcers are a leading cause of diabetic infections and, if unresolved, can lead to amputation of the affected limb. These ulcers will not heal on their own. If left untreated, the resulting infection may progress and can lead to increasingly extensive amputation the longer it goes untreated. Unfortunately, in many patients an amputation on one leg is followed within just a few years by amputation of the other.
Early detection of these ulcers can be critical in helping to prevent an amputation. By regularly visiting your foot and ankle specialist, frequently checking yourself, and seeking quick treatment for ulcers, you will be helping to prevent foot ulcers from compromising your mobility and your quality of life.