Diabetic Foot Signs, Symptoms and Solutions

Photo Credit: Christiana Care, Flickr

Photo Credit: Christiana Care, Flickr

Diabetics are at high risk for injuries and complications regarding the feet. All persons with diabetes should see a specialist for biannual examinations of their feet and perform daily self-examinations. Diabetics often suffer from peripheral artery disease, or PAD, and peripheral neuropathy. PAD is the result of blocked arteries, which causes decreased blood flow to the feet and legs. The resulting lack of oxygen can result in pain, burning sensations, cramping, impaired healing, and, in severe cases, ulcers and gangrene.

Peripheral neuropathy has similar symptoms but is the result of nerve damage. This commonly results in numbness of the feet, causing a person to be unaware of injuries which, if left untreated, can become ulcers or gangrenous. Limbs afflicted with gangrene generally have to be amputated. If the infection spreads it can result in death. Both PAD and peripheral neuropathy can be treated with lifestyle changes, medication, therapy, and sometimes surgery.

Risk factors that increase the chances of developing foot problems and infections include ill-fitting shoes, damage to the feet, fungal infections, prolonged or poorly controlled diabetes, and old age. Early detection of serious symptoms can save limbs and lives.

A doctor needs to be consulted in the event of persistent pain, constant itching or dry skin, warmth, redness, or swelling on the feet or legs. Antibiotics may be prescribed if there is an infection. In the case of ingrown toenails, calluses, corns, bunions, hammertoes, flat feet, heel spurs, arthritis, and bone-related problems the patient may be referred to a specialist. Orthopedic shoes or inserts can be prescribed for foot deformities. Surgery may be needed for bone problems.

Prevention is the best medicine. Hence glycemic control, exercise, and quitting smoking will help prevent and manage diabetes and resulting complications. Patients need to adhere to treatment plans and seek support from family, friends, or support groups.