Diabetes and your feet

Almost 10% of the entire U. S. population now has diabetes.* That’s 30.3 million Americans. The rise has been most alarming among our nation’s youth, an unhealthy outcome of the rising trend of obesity among young people.

“There are two types of diabetes,” explained Dr. July Elder, GraceMed’s Chief Medical Officer. “Type I has been referred to as ‘Juvenile Onset Diabetes’ and is caused by an inability to produce insulin that occurs in genetically susceptible people.  Type II most likely arises from a combination of genetic environmental factors in various groups of people.  This type used to be almost exclusively seen in adults, but now we’re seeing an alarming number of children with Type II diagnoses.”

Sweet is not good for the feet

Diabetes is a gateway condition that opens the door to a variety of other health problems, most notably cardiovascular disease.  Unfortunately, you can’t cure diabetes, but you can manage the impact it has on your health.  One area of particular concern is the health of your feet.

Dr. Aiman Bishara

“Excess sugar in the bloodstream increases the risk for atherosclerosis, which is plaque build up in the arteries,” said Dr. Aiman Bishara, GraceMed’s Podiatrist at our Helen Galloway Clinic. “This causes decreased blood flow which, in combination with metabolic and hormonal factors, can lead to nerve damage.  Because the nerves in our feet are the farthest from our heart, they are the ones that diabetes attacks first and foremost.”

Diabetic neuropathy is the name of this condition.  Its symptoms are typically experienced as numbness or tingling in the feet, eventually leading to a loss of feeling.  While that might sound like something you can live with, it’s actually the beginning of a new set of problems.

“Pain is the body’s way of telling you there’s a problem,” Dr. Bishara said. “You can develop infections or ulcers that go untreated because you don’t know they are there.  Warts, bunions, blisters — any number of conditions can develop and get more serious because you don’t feel the pain you normally would.  Unfortunately, some of these problems can go on so long that amputation may be the only viable remedy.”

Have your feet examined

For people who have diabetes, seeing a podiatrist like GraceMed’s Dr. Bishara is recommended at least once a year.  Regular visits to a podiatrist can lower your risk of amputation by as much as 85% and your risk of hospitalization by 24%.

At the exam, the doctor will conduct a series of tests to measure the extent to which neuropathy may be present.  “We’ll also be looking at overall health of the foot,” Dr. Bishara said. “Any indication of infection, breaks in the skin, the quality of circulation through the foot — these are all things we would be taking a good look at during the examination.” Other tests or diagnostic imaging may also be ordered as warranted. Pain can be treated using a variety of oral medications or topical creams.

If you would like to have a podiatrist look at your feet, make an appointment with us today!

*According to this report from the CDC

This post originated in our State of Grace quarterly news magazine. If you would like to receive the magazine, please visit this link and give us your information. Thanks!