Diabetes and Foot Management: Knowing the Signs of Unhealthy Feet.
Nearly 29.1 million people in the United States are patients with diabetes. Unfortunately, an average of 180 amputations are done a day in the United States on patients with diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, diabetes is the seventh highest cause of death in the United States.
Why is an amputation sometimes necessary?
An amputation is necessary when a foot ulcer develops into a non-healing wound. A foot ulcer is an open sore on the foot that increases in damage the longer it goes untreated. Typically, non-healing wounds are the result of loss of feeling in the feet. This is called neuropathy, a disease that affects the nervous system that causes loss of feeling. Therefore, patients with diabetes are more prone to foot damage, which in extreme cases, can lead to an amputation.
What are the signs of damaged feet?
A foot ulcer looks like a red crater on the foot. Typically, they occur on the side or bottom of the feet and are very painful. Patients that suffer loss of feeling in their feet may not feel the crater, allowing them to get worse.
Often times the crater’s is bordered by calloused skin, resembling a blister. If a crater is detected, get medical attention to the foot immediately. Craters can extend so deep they can eventually expose tendons and bones, often leading to an amputation.
How can I prevent foot damage?
Preventive action against foot ulcers and foot damage starts with daily foot examinations. According to the Center for Disease Control, a daily foot exam reduces a patient with diabetes chances of needing an amputation by 45 to 85 percent. Here are a few other preventive actions patients can take:
- Don’t go barefoot and be sure to check the lining of your shoes for tears or foreign objects
- Never cut toenails too short and be sure to cut them straight across
- Avoid crossing your legs (puts pressure on the nerves, possibly causing damage)
- Sit with your feet up to keep a steady blood flow
- Wiggles your toes and move ankles up and down for two to three times a day in five minute increments
- Always wear properly fitted shoes and socks
- Never remove loose pieces of skin from the foot (have a healthcare professional do so)
- Rub lotion on the top and bottom of your feet, but never between the toes
Where can I receive help maintaining my foot health?
Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Wound Healing Services is offering free foot screenings on May 7, 2016 from 8 am to noon at its office located at 2901 West Jackson Street. The screening is available for anyone; however, individuals who have suffered calf or leg pain or numbness while walking; diabetes mellitus; leg or foot ulcers; no previous peripheral artery disease and are over 65-years-old or are a smoker over the age of 60 are particularly advised to attend.
Dr. John Eliades is the Medical Director at IU Health Ball Memorial Wound Healing Services.