Diabetic Foot

Some will develop this infection

One in four of us will have diabetes by the time we're 65. For diabetics, a small problem can have big consequences. A little nick on the foot can sometimes even lead to an infection that, if left untreated, can become so bad that an amputation is required. This infection - diabetic foot - causes 3 in 5 non-traumatic amputations in the US. It's a big deal. The majority of those with diabetes will be affected, at some point, though the infection can be controlled.

What Is Diabetic Foot?

Diabetic foot is an infection of your foot that can be caused by having had high blood sugars with Diabetes. It often starts with a small cut or sore that is not noticed initially and then can be a chronic infection that is hard to treat and whose damage to the foot cannot be undone. This can lead to prolonged treatment with antibiotics and infections in your bones. If infections continue, this can lead even amputation of part of the foot or even the leg, in some cases.

How does this happen?

When your blood sugar rises with diabetes, your nerves and blood vessels can be damaged by these high blood sugars.

Because of the damage to your nerves, you might lose sensation in your feet or you might feel tingling in your feet.  As a result, you might step on something and not feel it. You might have a blister, cut or sore on your foot that you don't feel - or that doesn't feel so bad.

If your eyesight is impaired you might not even see it - especially since it might be on the bottom of your foot, where you wouldn't always look.

Because the high blood sugars can damage blood vessels, you might not have the blood flow you need to heal a simple cut. Even with antibiotics to treat the infection, which is usually caused by bacteria, these infections can be hard to stop.

The bacteria can travel down to the foot bones and be even harder to get rid of.

Having high blood sugars can also lead to more infections as well. 

This damage to your nerves and blood vessels from high blood sugars can affect you long after your blood sugars become normal. It's a reason to control your blood sugars now.

What can you do to prevent this?

Rule #1: Keep your blood sugars healthy.

Monitor your blood sugars as directed by your healthcare provider. Make sure these are staying in the range recommended. This means taking medication as directed, adjusting medications as directed, and be careful about dietary choices.

Rule #2: Keep your feet healthy.

There are some ways to make sure your feet stay healthy. This has to be a priority. It can't be forgotten. This might be a good excuse to always have pretty, sandal-ready feet at all times.

  • Wash your feet daily. Use warm, but not hot, water.
  • Keep your skin healthy. Notice any rough spots or cracks. Lotion can help keep your feet soft, but don't use it between your toes. Tell your doctor or other provider if you notice any problems
  • If you can see, reach, and feel your feet, trim your toenails regularly.
  • If you cannot take care of your toenails, have a professional, such as a foot doctor (podiatrist) take care of these.
  • Wear socks and shoes. Avoid stepping on anything that might hurt your feet because you might not feel it and it could cause more damage than you'd feel.
  • Wear shoes that fit. Make sure you break in new shoes slowly.
  • Adjust your socks if they feel bunched up in your shoes.
  • Have corns and calluses removed, having a professional help as needed to be safe.
  • Protect your feet - from anything that might hurt them, things you'd step on, anything hot or cold.
  • Make sure you have good circulation in your feet. You can prop up your feet when you are sitting, say on a foot stool in front of the couch, and wiggle your toes. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about this.
  • Avoid smoking. This can further damage your blood vessels and your ability to heal.

Get Treatment early

Infections can be treated more easily and with shorter treatments if noticed early. Chronic infections can lead to a lot of damage that can't be undone. They may lead to amputations, which is why those who are diabetic sometimes have foot, then even leg amputations.

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