Diabetes and Foot Care
Managing diabetes does not just mean keeping your blood sugar levels in an acceptable range. It also means taking steps toward preventing health complications that can occur with diabetes. Diabetes can put you at risk for foot complications like foot ulcers, which, if not treated early, may lead to amputation. However, with proper attention and care you may be able to prevent such problems.
Poor Blood Flow and Damaged Nerves
You may be wondering, “How are diabetes and foot problems related?”
With diabetes, sugar levels build up in your bloodstream either because your body does not make enough insulin or because your body is resistant to insulin. Insulin is important because it helps move sugar from your bloodstream to your cells where it can be used for energy.
Diabetes can lead to decreased amounts of blood flow to your legs and feet. If you smoke, this can worsen blood flow problems. Poor blood flow to your limbs is called peripheral vascular disease. Diabetes can also damage nerves, a condition known as neuropathy. With damaged nerves, you may not be able to feel pain, heat, or cold.
How It All Fits Together
Having both poor blood flow and damaged nerves in your legs and feet can make it difficult for you to notice foot conditions that may arise, as well as prevent these conditions from healing properly.
For instance, what if you developed a blister or cut on your foot? Since your nerves are damaged, you may not feel the injured area to notice and treat it. Because of this, the injured area becomes infected. Since blood flow to your legs and feet is decreased, the white blood cells that fight infection may not get to your limbs fast enough, and the infection may heal slowly or not heal at all. This can lead to worsening problems like a spreading infection or gangrene.
Last reviewedSeptember 2014by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.