This Year, Some Diabetic Patients Will Lose The Use Of Their Legs
Because you have been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, you know that your body is impaired in its ability to use and store sugar. In addition to blood sugar impairment, diabetes also causes changes in your body's blood vessels. Sometimes these changes lead to circulation and vision problems. For some diabetic patients, circulation problems become so serious that they actually lose the use of their legs and feet.
Problems As Serious As Gangrene Threaten Diabetic Patients
"Surely," you may be thinking, "No one would let their feet become so neglected that they risk developing a very serious medical problem."
The answer for most patients is "Of course not." Most people who are afflicted with sores that won't heal or wounds that become infected seek prompt medical attention.
But diabetic patients are different. Diabetics often do not know that their limbs are in trouble. Trivial problems such as corns, calluses, toenails and blisters can quickly become serious. Diabetic patients also have a high incidence of developing ulcers, seriously dry or infected skin, and even gangrene.
There are several reasons for this:
Circulation problems: Your blood is composed of white cells, red cells and plasma which are essential for healing. When blood flow to your legs and feet is lessened (as it is in all diabetics), your ability to heal is dramatically reduced. This is how small problems like a blister can quickly become serious.
Nerve damage: Diabetes frequently damages the nerves in your feet that respond to pain. Thus, you aren't as sensitive to pain as other people may be, and you often will not feel the discomfort of a beginning foot problem. Motor nerve damage may also cause your muscles to weaken or shrink, thereby promoting foot deformities such as hammertoes or clawfoot.
Overly dry skin: Circulation problems and nerve damage both cause dry skin. For diabetic patients, this poses a particular problem because overly dry skin will develop tiny cracks; and you risk infection.
Loss of vision: Diabetics frequently cannot see as well as they once could. Thus, it is recommended that you go to a professional for routine nail care, paring of corns, calluses, etc.
Helpful Tips For At-Home Foot Care
You are well-acquainted with the dietary changes you can make to control diabetes. In the same way, there are simple techniques that you can use to limit your risk of serious problems.
Here's what you should do:
• Wear comfortable shoes: Well-fitting shoes will protect your feet from injuries and prevent corns and calluses. Avoid walking bare-foot, even at home, to reduce the risk of splinters.
• Change socks often: Make sure your socks are made of absorbent, nonbonding material. You should be especially aware of holes, as this leaves your foot exposed to injury.
• Practice daily grooming: Carefully inspect your feet once a day for redness, blisters or irritation. Use a mirror, if you need to. Also, do not try to pare corns, calluses or toenails yourself.
• Use a moisturizing lotion: By using foot lotion daily, you will keep your skin from becoming dangerously cracked.
• Follow your doctor's advice: Watch your diet and follow your physician's advice. You are normal if you feel frustrated by these restrictions; but, by getting into normal health care routines, you can keep your spirits up -- and remain healthy!
When To Consult Your Podiatrist
If you are a diabetic, you should see your podiatrist every 3 to 4 months for a routine check-up. Following are other medical problems that signal a visit to your podiatrist:
• Toenail changes
• Corns or calluses
• A red or irritated spot
• Ulcer, blister or infection
• Dry or cracked skin
• Any difficulty with grooming
Many of these problems can be remedied without surgery. State- of-the-art advances permit your podiatrist to monitor circulation; treat fungus nails, callus formation, chronic dry skin and poor circulation; and to medically or surgically correct problems if necessary.
Surgery Can Be Safely Performed
If surgery is suggested, diabetics often exclaim "But I thought surgery wasn't safe for me!" The trust is, your physician can prepare you for surgery by keeping certain risk factors within a acceptable range. Also, Dr. Teles may be able to perform Minimal Incision Surgery, a modern technique that further minimizes the risk of surgery and allows for rapid recovery.
If You Need Our Help
Dr. Gregory Teles has devoted a large part of his practice to educating and treating diabetic patients. He enthusiastically endorses preventative foot care, teaching his patients how to minimize medical expenses and safeguard their health.