News: Feet, don’t fail me now! Diabetes and your feet
Story by Staff Sgt. Ashley Hawkins
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. - Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 180,000 victims annually. Part of the debilitation of diabetes is the effect the disease has on feet, resulting in painful sores, immobility and potential amputation. However, with attention and preventative measures, some effects may possibly be avoided.
According to Maj. Hjalmar Contreras, 633d Medical Group podiatrist, diabetic foot infections are the most common reason for hospital admissions among diabetic patients, accounting for 25 percent of all diabetic admissions.
“Without proper care, diabetic patients may develop ulcers on their feet, which occur in 15 percent of diabetic patients,” said Contreras.
Diabetes affects the feet in two ways: contributing to vascular disease and damaging nerves. Vascular disease impairs circulation, creating an oxygen deficiency in tissues. This deficiency could result in poor healing, infections and even gangrene. Symptoms of vascular disease include changes in the skin of the feet, such as lack of hair or thinning of skin, absent peripheral pulses and arterial Doppler abnormalities.
“Diabetes and smoking pose the greatest risk of peripheral vascular disease,” said Contreras, noting that PVD is 30 times more prevalent in diabetic patients.
Diabetes also damages the three nerve systems -- autonomic, sensory and motor -- resulting in a loss of feeling in the feet. This condition is known as diabetic neuropathy. Symptoms of neuropathy include a loss of protective sensation, dry flaky skin and foot deformities.
Most of the aforementioned conditions can be avoided or limited by prevention, said Contreras. To help prevent complications from diabetes, follow these 10 guidelines:
1. Inspect your feet daily. Check for cuts, scrapes, bruises or blisters.
2. Never soak your feet. There’s little way of knowing what may be in the water, and contaminants may irritate or cause infections. Wash your feet in lukewarm water, and carefully dry between toes.
3. Moisturize your feet. Use lotions and creams. Do not use petroleum jelly, and do not apply any topical solution between toes.
4. Cut toenails straight across, leaving the front edge. Don’t pull or rip off nail edges.
5. Never use chemical corn removers on your feet. These may cause blisters, burning holes in the skin. Never cut calluses with razors -- use a pumice stone instead.
6. Change your socks daily. Keep socks clean and dry, and avoid tight socks and stockings.
7. Never walk barefoot. Check the insides of your shoes daily.
8. Avoid smoking.
9. Wear shoes that fit. Tip: leather shoes easily adapt to feet and may provide more comfort.
10. Get annual check-ups.
“Controlling your glucose levels decreases chances of foot problems by 50 percent,” added Contreras.”While developing complications from diabetes may not be completely avoidable, practicing sound prevention measures will greatly diminish the chances of problems occurring.”