A heavyweight in the chronic disease segment, Diabetes is the modern world's worst enemy. Our lifestyle changes and poor dietary intake has made it even more common. But as the famous saying goes, 'keep your friends close and enemies closer,' let's investigate the contender.
Diabetes is a disorder of the metabolism where a person experiences high levels of blood sugar due to the body's inability to produce insulin or regulate it. In most cases, the patient is recommended to take insulin separately. It is a non-communicable disease that affects the human body in different ways.
The immune system of a person suffering from diabetes needs strengthening and utmost care than usual to protect it against viral and bacterial invasions. Diabetics are often advised to take a good note of any physical injuries since healing takes a much longer time. Apart from this, it also makes one susceptible to the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Diabetes and Foot Injuries
High blood glucose levels hamper various parts of your body in many different ways. It poses a serious threat to the nervous system, which may impair and obstruct smooth transmission of signals to and from the brain. Diabetics often complain of troubles associated with their feet. This is due to the increased blood sugar levels which damage the sensory, motor and auto functions of the nerves around feet. As a result, a diabetic may not report sensing any minor injury caused to his or her foot and it may go unnoticed. Moreover, since the process of healing is much slower in the patient, the injury may lead to serious infection.
Increased blood sugar levels also creates a friendly environment for bacteria and viruses, thus further weakening the body. The rate at which these pathogens multiply and spread infection is also greater in a diabetic patient as compared to others.
According to Dr. Sunil Sharma, general physician and head of emergency, Madan Mohan Malviya Hopsital, New Delhi, "Feet are usually the most neglected of all body parts. But for diabetics it's probably the most important. A diabetic needs to be extremely careful of the health and hygiene of his feet. Foot injuries are one of the leading causes of mortality in diabetics affecting close to 25% of the patients. A seemingly trivial crack or infection can take shape of a severe deformity or progress into fatal conditions like ulceration and gangrene that may even call for amputation."
Surprisingly, diabetic foot induced amputations account close to 20% of the total amputation cases across the globe. In most countries, it is even the leading cause of non-traumatic, lower extremity amputations.
Apart from the damaged nerves, a patient may also develop a condition wherein the basic bone and muscle structure of the feet is displaced, leading to deformities and exposing one to further risks of injuries. A few of such deformities include conditions like bunion, hammertoe, Charcot's foot, etc. At times, sweat glands and their functioning may get affected too, leaving the feet extremely dry and crack prone.
"Even minor blisters, cracked heals, corn and calluses can cause serious trouble. The hyperglycemic milieu prevailing in poorly controlled diabetes increases the risk of infection in an otherwise minor foot infection," explained Dr. Sharma.
Happy Feet: Taking Care
1. Apart from maintaining the basic cleanliness and hygiene, it is important that you keep your feet well groomed. Trim your nails timely and get rid of the dead and hard skin as well as ingrown toenail. Look in between your fingers to keep a check on fungal infections also known as intertrigo. One should always be watchful of any redness, cracks, change in skin colour, thickened skin, swelling, numbness, tingling, burning sensation, dryness, rashes, infections, warts or any other sign that is not normal. Getting your feet examined by the doctor is also a must, at least twice a year.
2. Make sure that you invest in proper, well-fitting shoes with soft soles. Avoid walking barefoot, especially on a surface that is too hot or cold. Treat corn, calluses, blisters properly. Wash your feet daily and keep them dry yet well moisturised. Inspect and examine your feet daily. Use seamless cotton socks without tight elastic. Do not expose your feet to extreme temperature water.
3. Previous foot injuries, minor surgeries or amputations may increase the risks of further foot related troubles. Smoking should be avoided as it acts a disrupter in managing diabetes. Get neurological examination of your feet, at least once a year. Do not stall seeking medical help, whenever you feel the need.
"There is one thing that I say to the better half of a diabetic - it's his/her feet that should interest you more than his/her face now. If the feet look good, all's good," concluded Dr. Sharma.