General Foot Care for Diabetics
People with diabetes are at high risk for developing problems with their feet. More than half of diabetics lose sensation in their feet due to nerve or blood vessel damage, and can hurt themselves without knowing it. To make things worse, diabetes slows healing and weakens the immune system, so what may seem like an inconsequential injury can quickly become a major problem. Even the smallest of foot and ankle injuries such as a blister or ingrown toenail can lead to infection and tissue death.
Diabetic patients with foot problems often experience pain, difficulty walking and other symptoms that may affect their overall quality of life. Surgery is often needed to correct these conditions and to keep the foot as healthy as possible and prevent more serious problems that can require amputation of the foot.
The type of surgery performed depends on the type and severity of the condition, but aims to restore function and stability to the foot, as well as relieving pain and restoring a proper appearance. Surgery may involve any part of the foot, including the tendons, bones, joints, tissue or skin. Metal screws, pins, wires and plates may be used to help the foot heal and ensure a full recovery. Most reconstructive procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis using minimally invasive techniques.
It is important to exercise extreme care when undergoing surgery, as patients with diabetes are at a higher risk for infection and other complications. Choosing an experienced doctor to perform your procedure can help reduce the associated risks.
Peripheral Neuropathy and Ulcers
Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage of the peripheral nerves, which branch out from the brain and spine to the rest of the body. It typically begins with pain, numbness, tingling, burning or weakness in the feet and may progress to more serious conditions such as ulcers, pain and loss of sensation. Numbness is especially dangerous, as patients sometimes do not detect an injury until the damage is so pervasive that the foot requires amputation. Diabetes is among the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy.
Treatment for neuropathic pain may include anti-inflammatory medication, electrical stimulation or implantable devices. More effective management of your diabetes can also help relieve pain. This condition tends to get worse over time rather than better, so finding a successful treatment method is important.
Our physicians have undergone special training to treat peripheral neuropathy using the latest surgical techniques. Some of the advanced procedures we offer are nerve decompression and partial joint denervation to relieve foot and ankle pain.
Another common problem for those with diabetes is ulcers and other wounds that form on the bottom of the foot. These can easily become infected or lead to other serious complications. Ulcers may develop as a result of poor circulation, lack of feeling in the feet, irritation or trauma.
Once a wound has been detected, it should be treated immediately in order to prevent complications from developing. Diabetic wound treatment focuses on relieving pressure from the area and removing dead skin cells and tissue through a process called debridement. The wound is then medicated and dressed to prevent infection and promote healing. For more severe wounds, patients may be required to wear special footwear or a brace to relieve pressure and irritation to the wound. To prevent wounds from developing, patients should avoid walking barefoot and keep blood glucose levels under control.
Charcot Arthropathy is a neurological disorder affecting motor and sensory function throughout the body. Patients with this condition experience damage to the nerve or the myelin sheath, the protective covering over nerves in the brain. This results in a weakening of signals sent from the brain to the extremities so patients often have problems with their feet. Patients with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing Charcot Arthropathy and may experience more severe symptoms.
Symptoms of Charcot Arthropathy may include:
- Loss of muscle
- High foot arches
- Frequent tripping
While there is no cure currently available for Charcot Arthropathy, certain treatments can help patients cope with the symptoms of this condition and improve their quality of life. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, braces and surgery for severe cases may be used to promote muscle strength and function, while medications may be prescribed to relieve pain as needed. Most patients benefit from a combination of treatments in order to treat their individual condition.