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Diabetes Mellitus is a condition in which either your pancreas does not produce enough insulin or it produces sufficient insulin but the cells of your body are unable to fully utilise it.
Foot problems are a frequent cause of hospitalization for people with diabetes. It is estimated that 15% of all diabetics will develop a serious foot complaint at some time. People with diabetes can develop a range of foot problems, but with regular visits to a chiropodist, appropriate footwear and daily foot inspections, you can prevent any serious complaints.
The three main complications associated with diabetes are: -
Neuropathy can involve the complete or partial loss of sensation in the feet and legs. You may not be able to feel a light touch or a sharp (painful) sensation on your lower limbs. It can sometimes be difficult to spot and prevent injuries due to neuropathy. This may lead to severe trauma or injury to the feet.
A chiropodist can test if a diabetic patient has neuropathic feet.
Neuropathy can also lead to sharp shooting pains in the feet. These can be very painful and usually occur at night. It can also cause muscle weakness in the foot, which can result in foot drop. This may lead to bunions, corns or calluses.
People with diabetes often suffer from peripheral vascular disease. This can result in cramps in the lower leg muscles. The temperature of the skin may decrease and there may be a change in color of the skin. A decrease in the flow of blood to the feet produces inadequate delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the foot. This can lead to serious consequences if a foot is injured, as healing will be impaired. For this reason, diabetic patients are urged to take good care of their feet. Especially elderly diabetic patients, as infections can spread rapidly through their feet.
Infections are a common complaint with diabetic patients. This is due to the difficulty in fighting off bacteria that enter the skin from cuts and wounds. Diabetes causes deficiencies in the activity of white blood cells. High glucose levels also impair normal immune response to bacteria. Therefore, any infection may become serious in a relatively short period of time.
All three of the above associated conditions of diabetes can increase the risk of an infection or ulcer from a foot complaint. Patients with corns, calluses, blisters and minor infections can have their foot complaint lead to ulceration and in severe cases, gangrene.
Inappropriate footwear can lead to serious diabetic foot complaints such as ulcers and infections. It is vital to wear appropriate footwear. Diabetics should check their shoes for any sharp objects such as glass and should also check for a torn lining. New shoes should only be worn for a few hours at a time to begin with.
Diabetes can affect nerves in your feet that control sweating. This can cause the skin on the feet and on the legs to become very dry. In severe cases, this can lead to fissures. Fissures are small cracks in the skin, which allow bacteria to enter the body and can lead to infections. Therefore, moisturizing the feet and legs is essential for diabetic patients.