There is a one in five chance diabetes will lead to a foot ulcer. More than 60% of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes. Why do diabetics get to have all this fun? Because excess blood sugar damages blood vessels. This is also why diabetes can lead to blindness: the small blood vessels in the eyes and toes are affected by high blood sugar first. The damage can affect larger blood vessels and this leads to cold legs, thin skin, and an inability to fight infection.
Blood sugar also damages nerves -this can lead o numbness but also odd sensations. This is why many diabetics complain their feet “feel like boards” or like they are “wrapped in cotton” or even “burning”.
It is possible to avoid ulcers, amputation, painful neuropathy and poor circulation. If these things have happened already it is possible to turn things around. It is possible to live well with diabetes!
How you may ask? Three things can prevent diabetic foot problems.
- Join a comprehensive foot care program—one that includes risk assessment, foot-care education and preventive therapy, treatment of foot problems, and referral to specialists. A program like this can reduce amputation rates by 45 to 85 percent.
- Look at your feet every day. Look out for color changes, texture changes, blisters, calluses, basically anything that makes your foot look or feel different than it used to. Any such changes can be a warning sign.
- Stay Fit. Everybody knows exercise will improve your general health, lead to better blood pressure, and better circulation. But more than that, the CDC has declared that with pre-diabetes, weight loss and increase activity will prevent or delay diabetes altogether. Lifestyle interventions like exercise and weight loss are more cost-effective (in a word, cheaper) than medications.
In conclusion, diabetes can lead to serious foot problems, but it doesn’t have to. Having a support system in the form of a diabetic foot program, education, and healthy body can keep diabetic foot problems at bay.