One of the worst potential outcomes of poorly managed diabetes is the loss of a foot and the lower part of the leg. How does high blood sugar lead to an amputation? It often begins with an untreated wound on the foot. When a podiatrist is a part of your diabetes care team, however, you can avoid this tragic outcome. At Forward Foot & Ankle Center, we offer wound monitoring and treatment as well as toenail care to people with diabetes to help them preserve their foot health as they battle this difficult disease.
Why Are People With Diabetes at Risk for Foot Ulcers?
An ulcer is an open wound or sore that will not heal or keeps returning after treatment. Anyone can injure their foot, and it’s always tricky to keep a foot wound clean and bandaged. But people with diabetes often suffer from a condition called peripheral neuropathy, a kind of nerve damage that causes them to lose feeling in their extremities, especially the feet.
That means that when a person with diabetes who has neuropathy steps on something that breaks the skin, they won’t feel pain, and they can’t see the injury because it’s on the bottom of their foot. As the wound grows and becomes infected, they don’t know it’s happening. Additionally, people with diabetes also often have poor blood circulation. Wounds need good blood flow to promote healing, so wounds on diabetic feet are slow to heal—or they don’t heal at all. An open, infected wound could eventually cause irreversible damage to tissues and bone, ultimately requiring the amputation of a toe, foot, or part of a leg.
Not every person with diabetes is at risk of developing an ulcer that will eventually lead to the loss of a limb. Factors that increase the chance of amputation include:
- Uncontrolled blood sugar. If you control your blood sugar through medication, diet, and exercise, you do not have to worry about the complications that can damage your feet. People with untreated or poorly managed diabetes are at the greatest risk of losing their toes or feet
- Smoking. Smoking cigarettes interferes with the ability to manage diabetes. Even if you are on insulin or other medications, if you are a smoker, you are less likely to get your blood sugar numbers under control.
- Peripheral neuropathy. Not everyone with diabetes develops neuropathy, but if you do have numbness and tingling in your fingers, hands, toes, and feet, you might be experiencing diabetes-related nerve damage. Having this diagnosis means you will have to be extra vigilant about caring for your feet.
- Hypertension. It is very common for people to have both high blood sugar and high blood pressure. Hypertensive patients often exhibit insulin resistance, meaning it’s harder for them to get their diabetes under control.
- Foot deformities. People with diabetes who also have bunions, hammertoes, or other foot abnormalities that cause the foot to rub against a shoe are prone to ulcers developing from a blister, corn, or callus. Treatment of the deformity, along with regular foot inspections, can prevent an ulcer.
In conjunction with your primary care doctor or endocrinologist, a podiatrist can help patients care for their feet to prevent wounds that can become dangerous ulcers.
Services We Offer Diabetic Patients in Our Livermore Clinic
At Forward Foot & Ankle Center, we are committed to whole-body wellness. We help our patients with diabetes understand the importance of managing their diabetes as we care for their feet. We encourage these patients to schedule regular visits for the following services:
- Foot inspections. The most effective way to prevent foot ulcers is to catch and treat wounds promptly. When we see patients with peripheral neuropathy, we conduct thorough inspections of the feet and areas between the toes to identify any cuts, cracks, or blisters that could develop into an ulcer and treat them with topical ointments and antibiotics.
- Wound care. In patients with active wounds, we inspect, clean, and dress the injury to prevent infection and promote healing. In wounds that resist treatment, we might remove the infected tissue or place the foot in a soft cast and recommend rest and elevation.
- Treatment for dry, cracked skin. People with diabetes often also experience extremely dry and cracked feet due to poor blood circulation and reduced perspiration. We can treat cracked feet with maximum-strength moisturizers, oils, and medications. Dry skin is dangerous because the cracks can open up and bleed, creating a wound that won’t heal.
- Toenail trimming. Our patients with diabetes are often elderly or have mobility issues that make it hard to reach their feet. As a result, they struggle to care for their toenails properly. Because ingrown toenails are another risk factor for developing a foot ulcer, we offer toenail trimming and ingrown toenail treatment to prevent wounds from developing.
If you are having a hard time controlling your diabetes, schedule an appointment in our Livermore office for a foot health assessment and treatment plan.
When a Foot Ulcer Is a Serious Problem
If you have not been proactive about your foot care, you might not discover a foot ulcer until it is too late. At this point, it is important that you seek medical treatment right away. Signs that a foot wound has developed into a dangerous ulcer include:
- The wound is surrounded by black tissue, indicating gangrene.
- Your bone is visible at the bottom of the wound.
- There is an odor coming from the wound, indicating infection.
- The wound is larger than a quarter.
- You see flesh damage on the top of your foot.
If you or a caregiver sees any of these symptoms, you should go to your local emergency room for immediate treatment. Regular visits to a podiatrist can prevent this kind of emergency.
Diabetic Wound Care in the East Bay
If you have diabetes, do not hesitate to find out how podiatrist Dr. Zoe Ramos could be a vital part of your care team. We serve the entire East Bay area, including Pleasanton, Danville, San Ramon, Dublin, Tracy, and Stockton. Call us at (925) 532-0099 or fill out our contact form, and we will be in touch to discuss your options for fast, effective treatment.