What is Diabetes Foot and how can you manage it?

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According to a WHO (world health organization) report, India has nearly 73 million people living with diabetes in 2017 and this number is estimated to go up to 100 million by 2030.

The life time risk of a diabetic to develop a diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) is 15%, which means 15 out of every 100 people with diabetes will develop diabetes foot in their life time.

50% of people with diabetes foot require hospitalization and 20% will require amputation.

In India, 80% of non-traumatic amputations (amputations that are not due to injuries, accidents) are due to diabetes foot.

What causes diabetic foot?

The answer is simple. Uncontrolled diabetes.

Consistently high levels of blood sugar will damage the linings of the blood vessels (leading to high blood pressure and heart disease) and the nerves (peripheral or diabetic neuropathy).

The layer covering the nerves is affected by persistent high levels of sugar which leads to loss of sensation especially the legs and the feet. The symptoms are numbness, tingling sensation, muscle pains, weakness and loss of sensation.

The loss of sensation will cause you to ignore your feet completely because you do not know if there is any injury or any pain if it is stuck by something. You may not wash or clean properly also because you don’t feel anything. A combination of nerve damage, blood vessel damage, weakened immune system, improper care and hygiene will lead to ulcers on the feet and lower legs, what we call as diabetes foot (or diabetic foot ulcer).

Common Pathway of Diabetic Foot Ulcer Occurrence and Recurrence

Identifying the symptoms of Diabetes Foot

Pain and numbness are usually reliable indicators of DFU, however, as people with diabetes are likely to have decreased sensation in their feet, ulcers can be difficult to identify. Patients will have to rely on other cues to identify symptoms, such as:

  • Leakage from the foot that causes stains in socks and shoes.
  • Inflammation, redness and odour, from either foot or both feet.
  • Black tissue (eschar) enveloping the ulcer.
  • Skin discolouration.

How to manage diabetes foot?

The easiest way is to prevent it in the first place.

Follow your treatment plan along with changes in diet and exercise; this will help you to maintain the sugar levels within the normal levels.

Monitor regularly. Regularly check your blood sugar levels and maintain the fasting levels below 110 mg/dL. Your HbA1c levels must always be below 7%.

Complications of diabetes foot

Ulcers, infections, gangrene (death of skin and tissue) and amputation are complications of diabetic foot.

Treating diabetes foot?

If ulcers develop, seek medical attention immediately without delay. See a diabetes specialist or surgeon who will clean the wound, remove any damaged areas and put you on antibiotics.

If you take medicines regularly, with proper hygiene and utmost care, infection due to ulcers can be healed.

Once done, work out a strict regimen to keep your blood sugar levels under control.

Also, employ the below measures to take care of your foot:

Warm water

Treat the soles of your feet, the arch, and all your toes to gentle warm water baths. Try a massage when they’re dipped in to further improve circulation.

Wear the right shoes

The wrong pair of shoes can make this condition more insufferable than it already is. Wear the right sized shoes to ensure that no extra pressure is placed on your foot.

Exercise right

Too much impact exercise can prolong the damage, causing it to take longer to heal, but exercise is a must. What then?

Try gentler exercises that get your heart pacing but are gentle on your feet. Swimming , yoga, tai chi and cycling can keep your body in tip-top shape while allowing your feet the rest they need to heal right up.

Also, give up smoking and keep moving your feet, ankles and toes regularly.

Remember that with proper care and precautions, you can manage diabetes foot and live a healthy life.