Diabetes is nothing less than an epidemic all across the globe. The vicious interaction of this troublesome metabolic disorder with multiple risk factors leads to many complexities, either involving the skin, leg, feet or significant micro vascular and macro vascular changes.
These are just a few complications that go hand in hand with uncontrolled or poorly managed blood sugar levels. Those living with diabetes are at an increased risk of suffering from diverse foot related problems. With diabetes, even seemingly harmless injuries may take a turn for the worse, leading to serious complications.
Mostly, the root cause of diabetic foot complications occur when the nerve supply is damaged, also known as neuropathy which attenuates the sensation in the feet. Other than neuropathy, less than sufficient blood circulation and heightened susceptibility of infections also has a role to play in causing foot problems. Here is a list of complications that are induced by diabetes in the foot area.
Signs Of Diabetes Foot Complications Problems In The Feet
- absence of foot pulses
- a pale color of the foot when it is raised
- feet that feel cold
- pain at rest
- pain at night relieved by hanging the feet over the side of the bed
- thin appearing skin
- loss hair from the toes and feet
- shiny skin
- a blue color of the toes
Foot Complications Related To Diabetes
Callus is another skin challenge that frequently bothers those dealing with diabetes. The effect of this disorder on the capillaries which supply nutrition and blood to the skin of the leg and feet results in thickened skin layer known as callus or corn. As compared to unaffected people, the incidence rate of stiff corn formation is increasingly more in those living with diabetes. Its formation is, in fact, regarded as an initial sign that the person may be at an escalated risk for diabetic foot ulcer too.
In combination with the tough skin, pressure on that part may lead to damage to the capillaries and the surrounding tissue. If bleeding takes place within the callus area, a haematoma can be visible which causes an itchy or burning sensation within the callus. If overlooked, the exposure of blood (due to disintegration of callus) may subsequently result in the initiation of an infection or ulceration. In case of callus formation, visit your doctor for its removal.
Do not attempt to do so on your own or by using chemical agents. To prevent its formation, one can wear therapeutic shoes with specially designed inserts that relieve pressure accumulation. Also make use of pumice stone on a frequent basis.
According to medical data, of the American diabetic population (which is nearing 16 million), almost one-fourth of them end up with foot problems, courtesy, diabetic nerve damage or neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is the most prevalent form of diabetes induced neuropathy which targets the peripheral nerves. As a result, sensory and motor nerves that supply muscles, skin, glands and other organs is drastically impaired. The most typical symptom of peripheral neuropathy is loss of sensation and numbness in either the hands or feet.
Thus, the patient is unable to perceive sensations, such as those of pressure, heat, cold or even pain. Many experience a tingling sensation or an elevated sensitivity to slightest of pressure and/or touch. Neuropathy may also lead to other types of deformities in the feet, namely, hammer toes, bunions or Charcot feet. It is thus imperative for such people to carefully observe the feet each day for changes in the colour, swelling, hot spots or deep cracks. Also, tend to any minor injury (be it a pressure sore or a small scrape).
Diabetic Foot Ulcer
Of all the foot complications observed in diabetes, foot ulcer is perhaps one of the most grave and expensive complications. Diabetic foot ulcer is the end result of several risk factors. Once the outermost, protective skin layer weakens or breaks, the underlying deep tissues, become unprotected and opens to infection by bacteria. Such bacterial attacks progress quickly resulting in development of ulcers mostly on the undersurface of the big toe or the ball portion of the foot. These ulcerations may or may not hurt, but they certainly take a long time to heal.
Diabetics should not take foot ulcers lightly as delay in the treatment can lead to greater chances of losing the limb. Most likely, your doctor will take X-rays of the affected foot to verify that the infection has not reached the bone surface. After carefully debriding the devitalized skin tissue, you may be put on an antibiotic course. In addition to this, he or she may also place a protective cast or brace around the ulcerated foot. Vigilant control over diabetes is essential to prevent recurrence of foot ulcers.
Bone Infection And Diabetes
The key feature of diabetics is the intensification of the complication and the slow process of healing. Therefore, doctors repeatedly emphasize that diabetic people must under no circumstances ignore the formation of any skin infection or ulcer on the feet. It has been noted that the process of tissue breakdown advances at a faster rate in such individuals and many a time manages to invade deep enough to reach the bone too.
This type of secondary infection may ultimately result in loss of the afflicted foot. The bones get substantially weakened, and this further encourages deformation of the foot.
Restricted Blood Circulation
Atherosclerosis or thickening of the walls of blood vessels results in hampered flow of blood to many organs, including feet. This change encourages the bacterial and fungal species to establish dangerous foot infections. Due to the lack of sufficient nourishment, injuries or sores on the foot require an exceedingly long time to subside.
This also results in a greater percentage of secondary infections. Some diabetics also complain of pain and discomfort in their calves whilst walking on a hard surface. This particular condition is termed as intermittent claudication. Doctors may recommend daily exercise or prescribe medications to enhance blood circulation to the lower extremities.
Unfortunately, men and women with uncontrolled blood sugar levels are more likely to have severe foot problems which necessitate foot amputation. The vascular changes along with nerve damage make them easy targets for infections and ulcers which in turn may require amputation. For such reasons, those diagnosed with diabetes must take utmost care of their feet by controlling blood sugar and taking other preventive measures, such as abstinence from smoking and use of proper, comfortable shoes.
As you already know, diabetes causes alterations in the skin. Thus, a diabetics’feet look extremely dry and delicate. Sometimes, nerve damage results in peeled skin too. It is important to moisturize the skin but make sure you don’t overdo it as surplus moisture from lotions or creams can increase the risk of skin infection.