How does Diabetes Effect your Feet (Part 2)

Diabetes and Associated Foot Complications

Building on our first piece on diabetes and their effect on feet, this week’s blog will focus on bringing light to some possible foot complications that may occur as a result of diabetes and some warning signs to look out for.
Diabetes can cause damage to your nerves and blood supply, putting your feet at greater risk of damage. This risk is only increased if the diabetes has been long standing, is poorly controlled (blood sugar levels are too high) or if the person is inactive or smokes. Changes in the blood that occurs from diabetes makes the feet and lower limbs more prone to infections and poor healing wounds. The fact that diabetes can also cause a loss of sensation in the feet, small and apparently harmless cuts can go unnoticed and with periods of weight bearing can break down and form ulcers that heal very slowly.

There are a number of signs and symptoms that need to be addressed immediately and others that can be taken care of regularly with the help of a podiatrist.

Some complications that require urgent medical attention include:

1. Ulcers

Ulcers are breaks in the skin that fail to heal over time. Ulcers can start off as simple blisters or sores, but because diabetes can cause wounds to recover slowly, repeated trauma to these areas can damage deeper skin layers often resulting in even deeper wounds that are more prone to infection.

If ulcers are left untreated they can result in deep soft tissue or bone infections, amputations and in extreme cases, death.

2. Redness in the feet

May indicate the presence of an infection which needs to be addressed urgently as long standing infections may expose your body to more potentially hazardous complications.

3. Blisters

If left unaddressed blisters may develop into ulcers or harbor potentially harmful bacteria.

4. Ingrown toenails

 The nature of ingrown toenails means that soft tissue is often damaged from nail being imbedded into it. Ingrown nails that are not treated can often become very painful and be a potential portal of entry for opportunistic pathogens that can trigger more serious infections.

5. Unusual swelling

Whether in the feet or lower limbs, a sudden onset of swelling can be indicative of infections, fluid imbalance as well as cardiac dysfunction. Adressing the causes of the swelling can prevent more serious complications resulting.

6. Bruises or cuts

Both bruises and cuts can potentially go by unnoticed in people with diabetes. Those with diabetic neuropathy (loss of sensation in the feet) can continue to traumatize the bruised or cut region wih activities of daily living which would create even more problems as the skin beneath undergoes more damage.

In order to avoid potentially hazardous complications, there are a number of problems to look out for which can be treated and addressed with the help of a podiatrist. Common problems are :

– Broken skin between toes
– Callous (hard skin)
– Corns
– Foot shape changes
– Cracked skin
– Nail colour changes
– Itchy skin
– Patchy or blotchy skin that is prone to being itchy.

If you or anyone you know has diabetes and is concerned about possible complications as a result of the condition, make an appointment with a podiatrist to get a diabetic foot assessment and for the treatment of existing risk factors.

Anel Kapur (Podiatrist)