Diabetes is a prevalent problem, affecting over 37 million people in the US alone. Although Utah has relatively low rates of the disease compared to many other parts of the country, diabetes still affects more than 191,000 people in the state.
That’s just under 8 percent of the population. Another 30 percent have prediabetes and are at higher risk of developing the illness.
There are two types of diabetes, both of which can lead to high blood glucose levels or sugar in the blood. With proper treatment, blood glucose can often be controlled, but you will risk severe health complications if it remains high.
These complications include kidney damage, vision problems, and nerve damage – which can affect any area of the body but most frequently occurs in the feet. About half of all diabetics may have some type of nerve damage.
Seeing a podiatrist is essential for diabetics for several reasons, including having your feet checked for potential issues and preventive care. At the office of Dr. Elizabeth Auger, DPM, we work hard to assist diabetic patients with preventive care and treatment for existing foot issues.
Part of that prevention is helping you get the best-fitting pair of shoes possible. Your podiatrist will examine your feet and current shoes and let you know if custom orthotics are a good option.
These are similar to the insoles you see in stores but are made specifically for your feet based on our scans. We don’t just recommend the closest item on a rack but instead create each insole for the individual patient based on their foot anatomy.
We can also recommend a local store that sells high-quality, comfortable shoes in various styles, where knowledgeable staff members can help you get the right fit.
In some cases, we will recommend more supportive shoes and additional custom orthotics. These are often helpful for people with existing foot issues like flat feet, fallen arches, bunions, etc.
Because nerve damage in the feet is so common, diabetics are at greater risk of foot ulcers and other potentially serious problems.
When you have nerve damage – which can occur without symptoms – your feet may have less sensitivity to pain. As a result, you might not notice a small wound or another issue with your feet right away.
At the same time, nerve damage can also lead to poor circulation in the feet, which slows the healing process. Finally, high blood sugar reduces your body’s ability to fight infection.
All three factors contribute to an increased risk of developing a severe infection in your feet, even from a relatively minor wound or injury.
Diabetic foot ulcers often begin as minor cuts or wounds on the feet that don’t heal as they should due to reduced circulation or immune activity. About 15 percent of diabetics will develop foot ulceration.
If left untreated for too long, these ulcers may become infected, and in the most severe cases, the infection spreads to other tissues or bones and requires amputation. In fact, diabetic foot ulceration is one of the leading causes of lower limb amputation.
The good news is that preventive care and rapid treatment of any foot ulcer or wound can significantly reduce the risk of needing an amputation or suffering other severe effects of a foot ulcer.
Here are some steps you can take to keep your feet healthy and identify any issues early:
If you notice any minor injuries, clean them and use an antibiotic ointment, then apply a bandage.
If mobility issues make this difficult, get help from a family member or a professional pedicurist.
Still, it is especially important for diabetics because they are at higher risk of serious complications from foot issues.
Many people struggle with this task – it’s more challenging than you’d think. You might rely on how shoes feel when you try them on, which is sometimes helpful in filtering out the most uncomfortable options.
After all, if shoes are uncomfortable the minute you put them on, they’ll probably not feel any better after you’ve been wearing them for eight hours! On the other hand, some shoes feel all right in the shoe store, but after some wear, they feel much less comfortable.
We recommend trying on shoes at the end of the day – for example, right after you get off work is an excellent time to go shoe shopping. Feet often swell during the day as we move around, and you want your shoes to still fit well after hours of use.
It’s also helpful to remember that nerve damage could affect your ability to feel just how uncomfortable your shoes really are. One good solution is to check the fit by trying on a shoe, then squeezing the front of it with your finger.
You should feel about half an inch of space between your toes and the edge of the shoe. If you don’t, the shoe is probably too small, and you should try a bigger size.
Some people also struggle because their feet need additional support or cushioning in certain areas, and shoes tend to be designed for the average person. As a result, even a properly-fitting shoe may not meet all your needs, which could lead you to consider buying new insoles.
Many shoe stores sell insoles you can add to your existing shoes, and some even have a kiosk that scans your feet and recommends the “right” insole for you. Unfortunately, these insoles don’t work for everyone.
The machine chooses the closest match for your feet, but it may not be close enough for you. These insoles are also made of lightweight material that often doesn’t hold up well.
Custom orthotics do not have these problems; they are tailor-made to fit patients based on scans taken off their feet.
Regular foot care is crucial when you have diabetes. Your podiatrist should be a partner in helping you manage your diabetes and prevent possible complications, such as non-healing foot ulcers.
Dr. Elizabeth Auger graduated from Temple University and completed her medical residency here in Salt Lake City, with specific training in foot surgery and wound care.
She has since spent more than 24 years practicing podiatry in the Sandy area, including treating many diabetic patients. Dedicated to a patient-centered, holistic healthcare approach, Dr. Auger will work with you and your medical team to stay on top of your diabetes and related issues.
Our office is now accepting new patients; in many cases, we can even fit you in for a same-day appointment. Additionally, our administrative staff can help if you have questions or concerns about your insurance coverage.
If you need to begin preventive foot care or currently have a foot ulcer or other issue, please contact us today at 801-845-3960 for assistance.