The Diabetic Foot

Diabetes can damage nerves, kidneys, eyes, and blood vessels. Diabetes can also lead to decreases in the body’s ability to fight infection. When diabetes is not well controlled, damage to the organs and impairment of the immune system is likely. This can cause foot problems and they can quickly become serious. With damage to the nervous system, a person with diabetes may not be able to feel his or her feet properly. Normal sweat secretion and oil production that lubricates the skin of the foot is impaired. These factors together can lead to abnormal pressure on the skin, bones, and joints of the foot during walking and can lead to breakdown of the skin of the foot and sores commonly develop.

Damage to blood vessels and impairment of the immune system from diabetes make it difficult to heal these wounds. Bacterial infection of the skin, connective tissues, muscles, and bones can then occur. These infections can develop into gangrene. Because of the poor blood flow, antibiotics cannot get to the site of the infection easily. Often, the only treatment for this is amputation of the foot or leg. If the infection spreads to the bloodstream, this process can be life threatening.

People with diabetes must be fully aware of how to prevent foot problems before they occur, to recognize problems early, and to seek the right treatment when problems do occur. Good control of blood sugar is the best way to prevent problems.
Diabetics need to learn how to examine their own feet and how to recognize the early signs and symptoms of diabetic foot problems. They should also learn what is reasonable to do at home as far as routine foot care, how to recognize when to call the doctor, and how to recognize when a problem has become serious enough to seek emergency treatment.

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