Diabetic foot problems
Both diabetes type 1 and 2 can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves. This is because people with diabetes have too much glucose in their blood. The damage to nerves and blood vessels can lead to serious problems in legs and feet. When not treated properly, the damaged nerves could eventually lead to amputation. There are two main conditions that cause the increased risk of foot problems in people with diabetes.
Diabetes can lead to nerve damage. This can cause loss of sensation in legs and feet. It can become difficult to feel small injuries, sores and cuts. Also, neuropathy can cause the muscles of the feet to work improperly leading to pressure or certain areas of the foot. Small cuts and cracks in the feet may be left unnoticed leading to serious conditions.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
PAD means that there is less blood flow because of the narrowing or occlusion of arteries away from the heart and brain, in particular in arms and legs. Without a good blood flow, it takes longer for a cut or sore to heal. Peripheral artery disease will increase the risk of infection. It could also lead to ulcers and even gangrene.
Symptoms of diabetic foot problems
Everyone can get foot problems but people with diabetes are at increased risk due to problems with the nerves and circulation to the feet. Most common diabetic foot problems include:
- Dry skin: diabetes changes the bacterial balance of the skin. The skin of the feet can become dry and cause cracks, especially on the heels. Cracked skin allows germs to enter which may lead to infection.
- Calluses and corns: these may develop due to improperly fitting shoes or abnormal alignment of the feet. If not treated properly, these calluses and corns can lead to an infection.
- Fungal infections of the nails: nails can bet thickened, discoloured and brittle.
- Blisters: wearing shoes that do not fit properly can lead to blisters. When blisters are popped, they can become infected.
Treating and preventing
Taking proper care of the feet can help prevent many common foot problems. It’s important to check feet regularly, preferably every day, for small cuts and sores. Also, people with diabetes should wear comfortable shoes and socks and avoid walking around barefoot. Dry areas on the feet should be treated with a lotion or cream and calluses and corns should be smoothed. A pedicure can be of help with this.