Do you have diabetes? This common condition affects more than 37 million people in the US, or about 11 percent of the population.
Patients can suffer complications, including nerve damage, if blood sugar isn’t adequately controlled. In fact, the CDC reports that about half of all patients with diabetes experience nerve damage, which can occur anywhere but most often affects the feet.
Unfortunately, this nerve damage can increase the risk of foot ulcers, which may become infected and often don’t heal well.
Several other factors can further increase the risk of nerve damage with diabetes:
Due to the risk of nerve damage and foot ulcers, diabetics need to care for their feet and avoid situations that increase the risk of injury or infection. If you develop an ulcer or suffer any wound on your foot, it might not heal quickly due to poor circulation.
Unfortunately, a foot infection can quickly become serious due to a combination of nerve damage, poor circulation, and a reduced ability to fight infections when blood glucose is elevated. In some advanced cases, amputation is necessary if the infection can’t be controlled.
The good news is: you can lower the risk of amputation with regular foot care and efforts to control your blood sugar.
Staying on top of your foot health can help reduce the risk of non-healing wounds, ulcers, and other foot complications. Here are some tips to help improve your foot health and prevent foot ulcers:
By looking carefully at your feet, you can immediately spot any cuts, scrapes, redness, swelling, or other signs of illness or injury. Clean any cuts or open wounds, and see a doctor right away if you spot any foot problems that don’t go away within a few days.
Using a mirror may be helpful if you have mobility issues or have difficulty seeing the bottoms of your feet.
Another thing to remember is that nerve damage could suppress the pain and discomfort people typically feel when their shoes are too tight or unsupportive.
Regular visits with a podiatrist can help you identify and address any foot problems. Your foot and ankle specialist can also treat foot wounds or ulcers, and they can perform a quick and simple test to determine if you have nerve damage in your feet.
Another advantage of seeing a podiatrist is getting assistance with your shoes. As discussed above, wearing comfortable and supportive shoes is critical in reducing the risk of foot ulcers and other problems that could be particularly dangerous for diabetic patients.
After examining your feet, the foot and ankle specialist will inquire about your job, lifestyle, and activity level. They may ask to look at your shoes, then make recommendations.
Some problems the doctor might address include:
Shopping for shoes at the end of the day usually provides a better fit. You should also bend down and press on the front of your shoe to see if there is about half an inch of space between your toes and the end of the shoe.
If not, you may need to try a bigger size.
We create these specifically for the needs of each individual patient, so they are far more effective than the insole replacements sold in stores.
The podiatrist can recommend a local store specializing in helping people with foot concerns find the best, most supportive shoes for their situation.
Medicare and some private insurers may cover the cost of one pair of orthopedic shoes per year, but be sure to get a prescription from your doctor for this purpose. The prescription will also help the shoe store staff find and address your needs.
The sooner you get treatment for a foot ulcer, the better. There are several steps to the treatment process:
Lowering your blood sugar helps your body to fight infection. Your podiatrist may recommend seeing your endocrinologist for additional medication or other adjustments if your glucose levels aren’t where they should be.
For many people, taking weeks off work and elevating their feet isn’t a good option, so your podiatrist might prescribe special footwear to shift pressure on the foot away from the ulcer.
Alternatively, a podiatrist may recommend mobility devices like a wheelchair or crutches that allow you to get around without putting weight on the foot.
Sometimes the doctor may apply skin substitutes to protect the ulcer and speed up the healing process.
Many patients worry about foot amputation, but fortunately, this is usually unnecessary if the ulcer is promptly treated.
The best foot care resources depend on your individual needs. To get started, please contact the office of Dr. Elizabeth Auger, DPM, at 801-845-3960 for a consultation about your foot health.
Dr. Auger completed a medical residency in foot surgery and wound care and has more than 24 years of experience helping diabetic patients with the prevention and treatment of foot issues.
Dr. Auger will examine your feet and recommend the next steps to keep them healthy. If you currently have an ulcer or another foot issue, she will form a treatment plan and assist you every step of the way.
To schedule an appointment for an evaluation, please call our office in Sandy at 801-758-7052. In many cases, we can even set up a same-day appointment.