Diabetes increases the risk for a host of other medical problems, but foot complications are among the most common and dangerous.
Recent research from Australia demonstrates the tremendous physical and financial impacts of diabetic foot problems. Most diabetes-related foot problems are preventable with proper care, and many can be treated with timely therapy, but it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible.
The High Costs of Diabetic Foot Disease
The results of a recent study conducted via Queensland University of Technology in Australia found that 1 in every 22 people receiving treatment for diabetes also had foot disease. Researchers estimated an average of more than 27,000 hospitalizations annually in Australia directly related to diabetic foot disease.
Those numbers place diabetic foot disease among the top 20 causes of hospitalization in that country, at an annual cost of more than $350 million. But diabetic foot disease doesn’t always end with hospital treatment. The study revealed that diabetic foot disease leads to about 4,400 amputations and 1,700 deaths yearly.
Preventing Diabetic Foot Disease
When it comes to diabetes-related foot conditions, Benjamin Franklin’s quip about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure holds true. The National Institutes of Health recommends that diabetics have their feet screened at least once every year.
These exams are important because many foot problems don’t present immediate physical symptoms. The screenings allow your podiatrist to assess for signs of nerve damage, test the blood circulation to your legs and feet, and determine whether shoe inserts or special footwear may help.
If you have diminished feeling in your legs and feet, or if you notice blisters or other physical changes in your feet, you should contact your physician or podiatrist as soon as possible. The sooner your condition is diagnosed and treatment begins, the greater the chance to prevent further complications or the need for amputation.
Common Diabetic Foot Problems
The term “diabetic foot disease” applies to peripheral arterial disease, in which blood flow to the feet is reduced. This can lead to foot ulcers and infection.
Other common diabetes-related foot complications include, but are not limited to:
- Peripheral neuropathy: Progressive nerve damage that reduces the ability to register pain or feel heat and cold. This loss of feeling means that patients may not notice other foot injuries. With time, this nerve damage can also affect the shape of your feet and toes. Those with peripheral neuropathy may benefit from therapeutic shoes.
- Calluses: Calluses are more common among those with diabetes, and they can lead to ulcers or infection without proper treatment. Developing calluses may be controlled by using a pumice stone after bathing, followed by lotion. Well-formed calluses should be treated by a health care provider to reduce the risk of additional complications.
- Foot ulcers: Diabetes-related foot ulcers tend to occur on the ball of the foot or the bottom of the big toe; ulcers on a side of the foot may be related to poor-fitting shoes. Without timely treatment, ulcers can become infected. Because diabetes impairs the body’s ability to fight infections it’s important to see a doctor if foot ulcers are present, even if the ulcers appear small.
If you have diabetes and you’re due for a foot exam, or if you’re concerned about potential foot problems, the expert podiatrists at the Foot & Ankle Center of Northern Colorado are ready to help. Please call our Greeley office at 970-351-0900 or our Longmont office at 303-772-3232 to schedule your appointment.