Diabetes causes blood sugar (glucose) levels to become elevated, which in turn can cause damage to the nerves and blood vessels. These complications are what cause most of the foot-related problems associated with diabetes. That’s because when nerves are damaged, people are less likely to notice small problems, which means care is delayed and those minor issues can develop into very serious medical problems. Plus, the numbness and complete lack of sensation caused by nerve damage also increases the risks of accidents and related injuries. The circulation problems associated with diabetes interrupt normal healing processes, which means small sores can quickly develop into large ulcers that can lead to infection and amputation. Swelling and changes in the skin are other complications of diabetes that can take a toll on foot health.
Diabetic foot ulcers are serious sores or lesions that are very difficult to treat and extremely slow to heal. Typically, treatment involves multiple approaches to get the infection under control and prevent amputation. Changes in circulation and nerve damage associated with unmanaged or poorly-managed diabetes mean that even a seemingly minor problem like a blister, corn or tiny cut can develop into a foot ulcer. Diabetic foot ulcers and related infections are the leading cause of lower limb amputations in the U.S.
Knowing the signs of diabetes complications plays a key role in ensuring treatment is delivered as early as possible so serious complications can be prevented. Some signs to watch for include:
Diabetic foot care includes a wide array of treatments designed to help men and women with diabetes prevent ulcers and other problems associated with diabetes and its complications. A comprehensive diabetic foot care program begins with routine podiatric foot screenings and evaluations performed on an annual basis or more frequently. During the screening appointment, the patient will be carefully evaluated for signs of foot problems, and treatments may be provided, including professional trimming of corns and calluses, treatment for cracked heels, nail trimming and treatment of toenail fungus or warts. Recommendations and guidance for self-care also will be provided.