Diabetes is generally associated with several complications in which elevated high blood glucose levels over time can damage the blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, and eyes. Diabetes also affects the body's resistance to infection. When diabetes is not kept in check, it could lead to damage to the organs and impairment of the immune system. Foot problems easily develop in people with diabetes and can quickly become serious.
When the nervous system is damaged due to diabetes, a diabetic person may not be able to feel his or her feet properly. Normal secretion of sweat and oil production that lubricates the skin of the foot is impaired. These factors together lead to abnormal pressure on the joints, bones, and skin of the foot during walking and can lead to breakdown of the skin. This leads to development of sores.
People with diabetes must be made fully aware of the measures to take in order to prevent foot problems, recognize them early, and seek the appropriate treatment in time.
Causes of Diabetic Foot Problems
Several factors may increase the risk of foot problems and diabetic infections in the legs and feet.
Footwear: Poorly fitting shoes are a common cause of diabetic foot problems.
Damage to the nerves: People with poorly controlled diabetes are at risk for having damage to the nerves in their feet, also known as peripheral neuropathy.
Because of the nerve damage, the patient may not be able to feel their feet normally. Also, they may not be able to sense the position of their feet and toes while walking and balancing. A person with diabetes may not properly sense minor injuries (such as blisters, cuts and scrapes), signs of wear and tear (that may turn into calluses and corns), and foot strain. A person who has diabetes may not be able to feel a pebble or stone, constant rubbing of which can easily create a sore.
Poor circulation: Especially when poorly controlled, diabetes can lead to accelerated hardening of the arteries - atherosclerosis. Healing does not occur properly when blood flow to injured tissues is poor.
Trauma to the foot: Trauma to the foot can increase the risk for a more serious problem to develop.
- Athlete's foot, a fungal infection of the toenails or skin, can lead to more serious infections and needs a prompt treatment.
- Ingrown toe nails should be handled right away by a foot specialist. Toe nail fungus should also be treated.
Smoking: Smoking any form of tobacco results in damage to the small blood vessels in the legs and feet. This damage interrupts with the healing process and is a major risk factor for infections and amputations.
Although treatment for diabetic foot problems has improved, prevention i.e. good control of blood sugar level is the best way to prevent them.