The American Diabetes Association® and many other organizations worldwide recognize November as National Diabetes month. The goal is to raise awareness and educate the public regarding this disease for which there currently is no cure. You may be asking yourself, “So, my sugar is high. How does it affect my feet?” In short, , the answer is nerve health and circulation. Both are critical for healthy feet and diabetes puts both in jeopardy.
Nerves are like wires. They have a sheath or covering. When the sugar gets high the covering loosens and the conduction slows down. If this happens frequently, feeling is lost nerve health and circulation. Both are critical for healthy feet and diabetes puts both in jeopardy.
Diabetics can also experience poor circulation due to the thickening of veins and arteries. This leads to decreased circulation or less blood flow in the lower part of the legs and the feet. Poor circulation can cause swelling and dryness which can lead to cracking and other wounds. You should avoid surgery but if it is mandatory, make sure to have a circulation test.
People who know that they have diabetes can protect their health by caring for their feet. Individuals who know that they may be at risk for diabetes but are currently undiagnosed need to examine their feet carefully, ask questions of family members regarding diabetes history, and to be candid with health-care providers.
People with diabetes that is undiagnosed and therefore untreated will typically experience violent swings in blood-sugar levels. These repeated spikes and crashes in blood-sugar damage the delicate walls of the capillaries, especially in the extremities—eyes, hands, and feet. When a cut or sore on the hands or feet does not heal quickly and normally, the body may be signaling a diabetic condition or other significant health issue.
Diabetics need to treat their feet with extra respect and follow these tips:
- Protect your feet: do not go barefoot. You can still walk on the beach, hike, bike. Just be sure to wear socks and well-structured shoes at all times.
- Keep your footwear in good condition. Be sure to shake out pebbles or anything else which may have fallen into your shoes, to prevent injury to your feet.
- Examine your feet after every shower or bath. Because diabetes diminishes circulation in the extremities, sensation in the feet may be reduced in individuals with this disease. This means that wounds to the feet may literally not be felt, leading to untreated infection. In extreme cases, this infection may lead to gangrene and other complications.
Science is still exploring the multiple causation for the three major types of diabetes, from the ubiquitous High Fructose Corn Syrup in our food to the complex riddle of genetics. Meanwhile, let’s all pay attention to our health starting from the ground up, beginning with our foundation, our feet.”