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Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin, which is required for glucose to feed your body’s cells. It is typically caused by the immune system mistaking healthy cells for foreign invaders and destroying the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. On the other hand, people with Type 2 diabetes cannot respond to insulin properly, and eventually cannot produce enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, with 1 in 4 having no idea they have it. Surprisingly, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US. The symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, fatigue, hunger, and even blurry vision.
Diabetes can also affect the feet as well. Over time, diabetes can cause nerve damage to your feet, which could then lead to symptoms such as tingling, pain and numbness in the feet. Neuropathy can be very dangerous to a person with diabetes, since it prevents them from feeling injuries such as cuts or blisters in the feet, and if not detected early enough, may lead to infection. Neuropathy can also lead changes in the shape of your feet and toes. The best way for people with diabetes to prevent or delay neuropathy is keeping their blood glucose levels in their target range. This consists of eating right, having the correct amount of exercise, and taking medications.
Diabetes can also create calluses and foot ulcers as well. Calluses build up faster and occur more frequently with those affected by diabetes. If there are too many calluses, therapeutic shoes and inserts may be required. It is important to have calluses trimmed by a health professional, as doing it yourself may lead to infections. If these calluses continue to develop and thicken, they can lead to foot ulcers. Foot ulcers are open sores, that appear on the ball of the foot or on the bottom of the big toe. These ulcers can lead to future infections if not treated and may possibly result in losing a limb. It is important to report any ulcers to your podiatrist right away. Your doctor may take x-rays to examine the foot and clean out any dead and infected tissue.
Lastly, diabetes can also lead to poor circulation and peripheral arterial disease (PAD). The poor circulation in the feet and leg area is a result of diabetes narrowing and hardening, eventually slowing down the blood flow in that area. The best way to prevent this is to keep away from smoking and follow your doctor’s advice for maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol. PAD is similar to this complication. PAD is when blood vessels narrow or are blocked by fatty deposits. PAD also increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes and is a common condition to those affected by diabetes. The combination of both PAD and neuropathy may lead to infections and can result in amputation of certain limbs. PAD can be prevented with wearing the proper foot wear and regularly taking care of your feet.
If you want to take care of your feet, you should wash and dry them carefully and perform daily inspections to check for cuts, blisters, or swelling. Any physical activity you partake in should be approved by your health care provider. You should also be sure to wear special shoes if advised to do so by your doctor.