Diabetes is a large and growing problem all over the world. The disease affects your whole body in many ways and is especially hard on your feet, which is why the podiatrists at Foot & Ankle Associates of Cleveland work so hard to educate our patients about it. Let’s take a closer look at what diabetes is and how it affects your feet.
What is diabetes?
People who grew up in the southern or midwestern United States may know diabetes by its colloquial name, which is simply “sugar.” If you ever heard somebody say “I have sugar” or “He has the sugar,” they’re simply expressing that a person has diabetes.
Why sugar? – Because diabetes has to do with the hormone insulin, which the body uses to control the amount of sugar in our blood. When you have diabetes, either you don’t produce insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or your body doesn’t know what to do with the insulin it does produce (Type 2 diabetes). A third type of diabetes is a temporary condition that sometimes affects pregnant women (gestational diabetes).
Type 1 diabetics must control sugar levels by injecting insulin into their bodies every day. Type 2 diabetics don’t need injections but must constantly monitor their blood sugar levels and watch what they eat. When blood sugar levels are consistently out of normal range, every system in the body is affected – circulation suffers, nerve damage occurs, and problems arise with eye and oral health.
How does diabetes affect my feet?
Unmanaged levels of blood sugar can cause the following conditions:
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD) means that blood vessels become damaged and blood flow is impaired. Good blood flow is necessary for wounds to heal, and PAD is the reason so many diabetics have serious problems getting wounds to heal properly.
- Neuropathy occurs when nerves are damaged and can’t get a message to or from the brain. That means if you were to step on hot sand, you wouldn’t feel it.
- Charcot foot, a complication of severe neuropathy, is when the bones of the foot soften, bend and break
Our expert podiatrists, Dr. Megan L. Oltmann and Dr. Craig B. Frey, note that there are many other issues that are easily addressed in non-diabetics, but they have the potential to become huge problems in the diabetic, even leading to amputation. These include corns, calluses, and fungal infections.