Early Detection can Minimize Diabetic Foot Problems


If you feet constantly feel cold and you’re experiencing reduced sensation or recurrent, persistent infections that are slow to heal, it could be an early indicator of diabetes.  More than 16 million people in the U.S. have the disorder and almost half are unaware of their condition.

While there are other factors and signs of diabetes, including (but not limited to) unusual thirst, fatigue, irritability or frequent urination.  It is imperative that diabetic patients seek help for chronic foot conditions to avoid long-term complications.

There are three major foot problems found in persons with diabetes that work together in unison, magnifying and escalating the impact of each other.  Neuropathy, the diminished sensation of the nerves in the foot, makes patients unaware of pain, the primary warning sign of an ulceration or infection.  Poor circulation or ischemia, coupled with a compromised immune system increases the risk of infection and the severity of the problem.  The delivery of oxygen and other nutrients to the affected area is restricted.

Treatment options for all these diabetes-related foot conditions are enhanced by early detection of the problems.  For instance, a regular and thorough inspection of the feet, best conducted by the patient at home and a podiatrist, greatly improves the chances of identifying a problem before it becomes severe.  Local wound care, dressings, and antibiotics can help accelerate the healing process.  To relieve pressure on the affected area, a podiatrist may recommend wearing different shoes (even several pairs during the course of the day).  Healing sandals or custom orthoses may be required to protect the foot as it heals.  In severe cases, the use of crutches, wheelchair, braces or casts is prescribed to remove pressure and aid proper healing.

When such foot deformities as hammertoes, bunions or metatarsal disorders threaten the diabetic patient’s health and mobility, corrective surgery may be required.  These deformities will worsen over time without intervention, as will conditions related to nerve, infection, and circulatory problems.  Podiatric surgery is usually an out-patient procedure performed under local anesthesia. 

Maintaining healthy feet is critical to the overall health and well-being of diabetic patients.  Each year more than 50,000 must have a foot or leg amputated due to diabetic complications.  Many of these amputations may have been prevented with early detection and prompt treatment of conditions.