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According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), diabetes is a condition that affects approximately 23.6 million Americans. Around 750,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, and the disease’s most common form, Type 2 diabetes, makes up for 90 to 95 percent of these cases. Type 2 diabetes is especially prevalent among older Americans, those who are obese, and those who lead sedentary lifestyles.
Complications of the disease may lead to several foot and ankle-related conditions. The loss of nerve sensation, or neuropathy, can cause diabetics to lose feeling at the bottom of the feet and therefore leave them unaware of pain, pressure, and heat. Decreased circulation is another complication of diabetes that can slow down the healing of wounds and injuries; this can lead to the development of foot ulcers.
To prevent foot ulcers from forming, diabetics should examine their feet every day for small cuts and wear shoes that curtail pressure. Constant monitoring for the risk factors associated with ulcer formation can allow for early detection and therefore lessen the possibility of ulcers or, even worse, amputation. The removal of calluses and ingrown toenails should be left to the podiatrist to avoid improper removal and possible infection.
Diabetic patients may also experience foot deformities due to complications in their feet, such as limited joint mobility, muscle atrophy, and decreased fat padding. These complications can increase pressure in certain areas of the foot, which in turn can cause certain deformities, such as hammertoe, to form. Another deformity, Charcot foot, develops due to the collapsing of microfractures in the bones of the feet. The resulting deformity is a foot that is flattened and wider in appearance.
To help minimize pressure and prevent the development of these diabetes-related foot and ankle conditions, your podiatrist may consider using orthotics or special shoes. Charcot foot may be treated using walkers, custom orthotic insoles, or non-weight-bearing or rigid weight-bearing casts or braces. In more serious cases, surgery may be considered to treat more developed deformities. Ulcers can be further cared for with the help of proper diet, medication to control glucose, intensive wound care, and infection treatment.