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SMG News

How Diabetes Affects Feet

Last updated: Apr 01, 2019

Diabetes is a disease where the body does not produce insulin or does not use it effectively. Insulin, produced by the pancreas, is responsible for providing energy in the form of sugar (glucose) to cells in the body. With diabetes, this system does not work as it should, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels. Without ongoing care and proper disease management, diabetes can lead to a buildup of sugars in the body and cause serious complications such as stroke, heart disease, eye problems, kidney problems, and peripheral neuropathy of the feet which can lead to ulcers, infection, and even leg amputation.

Summit Medical Group Podiatric Surgeon, Dr. Tony Distefano, is aware of the major impact that diabetes has on the nerves and blood vessels in the feet. “With diabetes, minor or ordinary foot problems can turn into major health emergencies,” says Dr. DiStefano. “However, with good diabetes management and proper foot care, many foot-related problems can be prevented.” In the below Q&A, Dr. DiStefano breaks down diabetic foot health and offers his expert advice and support.  

Diabetic Foot Health Q&A with Dr. Tony DiStefano

Q. How can diabetes affect my feet?
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to diabetic peripheral neuropathy (severe nerve damage) which is the most common complication of diabetes. This can lead to ulceration which can lead to toe, foot, or leg amputations.

Q. What are some common diabetic foot conditions and their main warning signs?
Numbness, burning, pain and a tingling sensation in the feet are the main warning signs of uncontrolled diabetes.

Q. Can these problems be prevented?
These long-term complications of diabetes can be prevented through diet control, diabetic sugar management, and regular foot check-ups with a foot and ankle specialist. Dr. DiStefano suggests the following:

  • Wash your feet in warm water every day using a mild soap. DO NOT soak and be sure to dry them well
  • Always wear closed toe shoes or slippers
  • Wear shoes that fit well
  • Elevate your feet and wiggle your toes and ankles throughout the day
  • DO NOT smoke

Q. What can I do to keep my feet healthy?
Active daily walking, diabetic sugar management, diet control, and regular foot check-ups with your doctor can keep your feet healthy.

Q. When should I visit a podiatrist/foot and ankle specialist about foot issues?
Any unusual sores, blisters, calluses, non-healing wounds, numbness, pain, or tingling sensation in the feet warrant a foot evaluation with a doctor.

With diabetes, there is a lot to manage–checking blood sugar, maintaining a healthy diet, staying active, managing medication, and visiting the doctor. Because of this hefty “to do” list, sometimes foot health falls by the wayside. However, diabetes can cause serious foot problems that can result in infections, deformities, or even loss of feet or limbs. Fortunately, many of these problems can be prevented or lessened just by paying close attention to your feet and seeking care and guidance from a foot doctor when needed. Dr. DiStefano recommends checking and washing your feet daily, finding shoes that fit you well, elevating them when you can, and staying active. And if you are experiencing any symptoms mentioned above, do not wait to see a foot doctor!