Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar. The condition can have severe implications for other parts of your body, including the feet. In order to prevent complications from diabetes and better manage the health of their feet, it’s important for people with diabetes to understand how diabetes impacts foot health.

Here at The Surgical Clinic, we know the link between diabetes and your feet. We hope this article will help you understand how important taking care of your feet is when you have diabetes. In this blog post we will discuss diabetes, different types of diabetic foot conditions; common warning signs that are not associated with most cases of plantar fasciitis; tips on reducing risks for developing diabetic foot ulcers or neuropathy-related injuries by using appropriate footwear and treating injuries early when they first occur.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a lifelong chronic disease that is caused by high blood sugar levels. People with type 1 diabetes are typically diagnosed young, adults develop type 2 diabetes. Everyone with diabetes has high blood sugar, but the severity of diabetes is not equal in all people.

Specifically, diabetes impacts how your body metabolizes and uses glucose for energy. When you eat carbohydrates, they break down into simple sugars like glucose and are absorbed by your bloodstream. Your pancreas helps to regulate insulin levels; when there’s an excess of glucose in your blood, insulin works to move the sugar into cells where it can be used as energy.

However with diabetes, either not enough or no insulin is made—or the body doesn’t react properly to the insulin that’s produced—so there isn’t a balance between glucose and insulin levels. Unhealthy glucose levels happen when the body either can’t produce or becomes resistant to certain hormones. Specifically, the hormone insulin which regulates blood sugar.

The lack of this regulation causes high blood sugar levels. This can lead to diabetes complications, including damage to the nerves and blood vessels that reduce circulation in your feet.

Managing this disease usually requires medication and watching the food you eat. Because this disease affects several body functions, people with this disease may experience several diabetic complications. For instance, high blood sugar counts can damage the nerves around your blood vessels and even lead to a heart attack.

Diabetes and Your Feet

Since diabetes deals with your blood, complications can be found anywhere in your body. Most commonly, it can cause nerve damage to spread to your feet. For example, you may find numbness in your legs and feet or a reduced ability to fight off infections. This combination can lead to serious problems, sometimes even life-risking, if not carefully monitored or identified.

Diabetes is a major risk factor for foot problems because diabetes causes nerve damage known as neuropathy, which reduces sensation in your feet—and makes you more likely to injure them without feeling pain or discomfort until it’s too late.

Diabetes-related conditions are one of the leading causes of foot problems and amputations, but if you’re watching your diabetes carefully these risks can be reduced.

Foot Health Problems from Diabetes

Diabetes can impact your feet in a number of ways. Poor circulation, nerve damage, and peripheral neuropathy are all possible consequences of diabetes that can lead to foot problems. These conditions affect the way you walk and balance.

Diabetes can cause numbness in the feet, which makes it difficult to feel any pain or temperature changes that may be indicative of an infection or other problem.

The most common problems leading to inpatient hospital care include ulcers, soft tissue infections, bone infections, abscesses, and gangrene. All of these problems usually come from one or more of the following health risks:

  1. Peripheral diabetic neuropathy (numbness)
  2. Peripheral vascular disease (poor circulation)
  3. A weakened immune system
  4. Foot injuries

The good news is, most of these inpatient cases are completely preventable with proper care and inspection during regular podiatrist visits. Because this is their medical specialty, doctors of podiatric medicine will be able to evaluate your overall foot health.

For instance, they will evaluate your foot health by checking your blood flow and looking for nerve damage. Also, they will identify any problems or risks between diabetes and your feet. All in all, visiting your podiatrist regularly will allow them to treat problems before hospital care or even amputation is needed.

In addition, diabetes can cause several types of skin problems on your feet. These include:

  • Blisters and ulcers from damaged nerves that affect the way you feel heat or pain around a cut or blister
  • Athlete’s foot caused by fungus growing in warm, moist areas like between toes or under a cast after an injury causes nerve damage
  • Fungal infections caused by diabetes-related foot problems

How Can I Keep My Feet Healthy with Diabetes?

Many people with diabetes wonder “What can I do myself to help prevent these problems?” Diabetics can rest assured that there are several habits that they can use to ensure foot health. Doing the following will consequently keep your feet healthy between visits to your podiatrist.

  1.  You or a family member visually inspect your feet daily. Be sure to note any blisters, calluses, bleeding, redness, swelling, or other concerning/abnormal lesions.
  2.  Check the inside of your shoes for loose objects such as rocks or metallic fragments.
  3.  Avoid walking barefoot outside your home.
  4. Do not soak your feet, and avoid extreme temperatures such as hot water soaks or heating pads.
  5.  Maintain healthy blood glucose levels and check them daily.
  6.  Wear shoes with a comfortable width, length, and depth to avoid excessive rubbing/friction.
  7.  Wash your feet daily with warm, soapy water and dry well, especially between your toes.
  8.  Do not use acids, chemical corn removers, or attempt to perform “bathroom surgery.”
  9.  Avoid smoking (or use of other tobacco products) and drinking.
  10.  Get regular examinations of the feet by your podiatrist, typically every couple of months.

As you follow this list, make sure you also do everything that your main diabetes provider prescribes. Staying healthy is more than just taking care of one area of your body at a time. In fact, maintaining balance and a healthy lifestyle will bring you many more benefits for years to come.

Get Your Feet Checked

If you have more questions about what you can do to manage diabetes, talk with your doctor.

Currently, The Surgical Clinic has two podiatrists with board certification. Get to know both of our Foot & Ankle Specialists Dr. Timothy Bush, DPM, and Dr. Tod Bushman, DPM.

The Surgical Clinic is here to provide quality, compassionate foot care to the Nashville, TN area. If you have diabetes and want a checkup, schedule your appointment today by calling The Surgical Clinic at (615) 329-7887.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: click here.