Diabetic Foot Care and Neuropathy: Why You Need a Podiatrist on Your Diabetes Care Team

Did you know that around the globe, there are a staggering 537 million people with diabetes? That’s more than the entire population of several countries combined! And guess what? By 2030, that number is expected to grow to a whopping 643 million. Yikes!

Now, let’s zoom in a bit closer to home. In the U.S., millions of folks are navigating life with diabetes every day. Meanwhile, about half of these individuals will experience diabetic neuropathy. This is a condition that can cause all sorts of affliction, from numbness to pain, and even lead to complications that nobody wants to deal with.

But fear not! That’s where our expert doctors at All South Bay Footcare come in. We’re here to be your partners in wellness, specifically when it comes to your precious feet.

Podiatrists are like the superheroes of foot health. They have the skills, tools, and know-how to keep your feet happy, healthy, and ready to take you on your next adventure. Whether it’s regular check-ups, treating those pesky foot problems early on, or giving you the best advice on foot care, they’ve got your back.

Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes has two main types. Each affects the body’s ability to manage blood sugar in different ways across all ages and backgrounds. Type 1, often developing in children and teenagers, results from the body’s failure to produce enough insulin. This may be attributed to factors like genetics or certain viruses. Currently, there’s no cure for it.

On the other hand, type 2—which used to be more common in adults but is now also seen in younger populations—happens when the body can’t use insulin properly. For some, their body doesn’t make enough. Lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and weight loss can help manage this type. However, some may still need medication or insulin therapy.

Each type presents challenges, but understanding them is a step toward better management. So, what’s the deal with foot and ankle health and diabetes? Well, both types can put your kickers at risk for all sorts of issues, from nerve damage to poor circulation and slow-healing wounds.

So, whatever the case, orthotics can be a game-changer. Don’t just step; stride with confidence and comfort, knowing your feet have the support they need to carry you through life’s journeys.

Diabetes and Foot Health

When diabetes enters the scene, it brings along a few uninvited guests that can party hard on your foot. Over time, elevated glucose levels can wreak havoc on your nerves, blood vessels, and immune system. Hence, it sets the stage for all sorts of foot-related hijinks. Add factors like poor circulation and nerve damage, and you have a recipe for trouble. Here’s how:

Who Needs Orthotics?

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Imagine a traffic jam on the highway of your blood vessels – that’s what PAD feels like. It’s a condition where narrowed arteries restrict blood flow to your extremities, like your legs and feet. Symptoms of PAD can range from mild to severe, including:

  • Mild to severe leg pain. Like a nagging ache or cramp that just won’t quit.
  • Changes in leg color. From pale to blue or even red, depending on the flow of blood.
  • Lower extremity sores. Stubborn wounds that take forever to heal.
  • Leg weakness. Feeling like your legs have turned into noodles.
  • Leg cramping. Those pesky muscle spasms that strike at the worst possible moment.
  • Shiny skin on legs. A glossy sheen that hints at poor circulation.

Poor Blood Circulation

  • Think of your bloodstream as a delivery service for essential nutrients and oxygen to your cells. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, reducing blood flow to your feet. This can cause tingling sensations, numbness, and even slow-healing wounds – not exactly a walk in the park.

Foot Deformities

  • Over time, high sugar levels can wreak havoc on your nerves and muscles. This can lead to conditions like bunions, hammertoes, and Charcot’s foot.

Skin Changes

  • Your skin is like a suit of armor, protecting your feet from the outside world. However, with diabetes, that armor can start to show signs of wear and tear. Dry, cracked skin, calluses, and even ulcers can develop, leaving your feet vulnerable to infection and other nasties.

Don’t wait for trouble to start. Getting ahead with expert podiatric care can keep your feet ready for action, no matter where life’s adventures might take you.

What is Diabetic Neuropathy?

Experiencing high glucose levels isn’t just a number game for those living with diabetes; it’s a condition that can take a toll on the body’s nerves.

Elevated levels of glucose and lipids in the bloodstream are believed to be the primary contributors to this condition. Along with this are the toxins they produce during metabolism.

This specific form of damage, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, primarily targets the legs and feet. This showcases the broader implications of unmanaged blood sugar. However, aside from this, key contributors include:

  •  Elevated cholesterol levels cause damage to blood vessels.
  • Mechanical injuries, such as those from carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Lifestyle choices, including smoking and alcohol consumption, can exacerbate nerve damage.
  • Metformin, a common diabetes medication, potentially worsens vitamin B12 deficiency.
Who Needs Orthotics?

Risk Factors

Certain things can make you more likely to develop this condition. Here’s what to keep an eye on:

  • Poorly Managed Diabetes. Keeping glucose levels in check is crucial for prevention. When glucose levels remain consistently high, damage in your nerves is more likely to occur.
  • Duration of Diabetes. The longer you live with diabetes, the higher your risk. It’s like a game of time – the longer those nerves are exposed to high glucose levels, the more likely they will become damaged.
  • Other Health Conditions. Conditions like hypertension, obesity, and kidney disease can further elevate your risk, creating a perfect storm for damage.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

This condition can be sneaky, but your feet will give you hints. Here’s what they might say:

  • Tingling Sensations. Like little pins and needles dancing on your skin.
  • Numbness. When your stompers feel like they’ve checked out and gone numb.
  • Reduced Pain Sensation. Do you not notice cuts or blisters, even if it’s there? That’s a sign!
  • Sharp Pains. Sudden, sharp pains that make you take a second look at your kickers.
  • Ulcers. These aren’t just your average sores; they’re stubborn and don’t like to heal.
  • Decreased Sense of Temperature Changes. Hot or cold, your feet just can’t tell.

 

Foot Complications to Keep an Eye On

Ignoring these signs can lead to more severe issues. Here’s the rundown:

  • Slow-Healing Wounds. Those minor cuts and scrapes that just don’t seem to go away.
  • Foot Ulcers. Stubborn sores that are hard to get rid of and can lead to more significant problems.
  • Infections. Small injuries can become infection gateways, leading to bigger problems.
  • Nerve Impairment. Over time, these symptoms can lead to further damage, affecting how you walk.
  • Charcot Foot. A condition where your foot changes shape because of weakened bones.
  • Risk of Amputation. The word no one wants to hear, but it’s a risk if things get really serious.

Don’t wait for symptoms to dictate your actions. Your health is worth every step, and we’re here to guide you every inch of the way.

Diagnosing Diabetic Neuropathy

When making a diagnosis, a doctor will typically conduct a comprehensive physical examination. With this, they will assess tendon reflexes, muscle strength, and tactile sensation. They may also perform additional tests, including:

  • Filament test. Uses a soft nylon fiber to evaluate skin sensitivity.
  • Sensory testing. A non-invasive procedure to test sensory function.
  • Nerve conduction study. Quantitatively measures nerve function in the lower extremities, often used for diagnosis.
  • EMG (Electromyography). Conducted alongside nerve conduction studies to further analyze nerve health.

Now that you know how this is diagnosed, taking control of your health has never been more critical. Early detection is vital to managing this condition effectively and maintaining a high quality of life. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor for a check-up!

 

The Role of Podiatrists in Diabetes Management

Podiatrists are the champions of wellness of your feet, especially when managing diabetes.

Here’s how they help:

  • Foot Exams. They examine your feet closely, looking for any signs of trouble brewing.
  • Nerve Sensitivity Checks. With a few simple tests, they check if your feet have lost any feeling.
  • Circulation Assessments. A good flow of blood is crucial, and they make sure your feet are getting their fair share.
  • Pain Management. Foot pain? They have innovative ways to reduce discomfort and improve your quality of life.
  • Patient Education. Knowledge is power! They teach you the best ways to take care of your feet daily.

Why Do You Need a Podiatrist in Your Diabetes Care Team?

These specialists are on the front lines in the battle against diabetes-related problems.

Here’s what they do best:

  • Prevention of Diabetic Foot Ulcers (DFUs). Studies have shown that podiatric care can substantially reduce the incidence of DFUs. These ulcers are a common complication and can lead to severe outcomes if not properly managed.
  • Reduction in Lower Extremity Amputations (LEAs). Their expertise is critical in the early detection and management of foot problems to reduce the risk of amputations. According to research, patients regularly seeing a podiatrist for care can decrease amputation rates by 45 to 85 percent.
  • Comprehensive Foot Care. Regular visits allow for ongoing monitoring and treatment of diabetes-related foot issues.
  • Coordinated Care Approach. They often coordinate all aspects of inpatient care for foot problems. This includes wound care, mechanical, vascular, and metabolic management. This ensures a comprehensive approach to treatment and prevention.

Including a podiatrist in your care team helps manage and prevent foot complications. With this, their intervention contributes to overall better health outcomes. Their specialized expertise is indispensable in the fight against diabetes-related foot problems, making them an invaluable ally.

 Diabetic Foot Care and Neuropathy by Midwest Podiatrist 

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Preventive Tips for Diabetic Foot Care

Taking good care of your feet may seem like a small part of managing diabetes, but it can greatly impact your overall well-being. By following preventive measures, you can avoid common pitfalls that lead to complications. It’s easier than you think, and we’re here to guide you through each step!

  • Daily Foot Checks. Spot any cuts, blisters, red spots, or swelling? Set up an appointment with your doctor.
  • Feel Your Feet. Can’t see them well? Use your hands to feel for bumps or rough spots.
  • Stay on Top of Your Glucose Levels. Managing its levels helps maintain the health of your feet.
  • Walk It Out. Walking is a great way to keep good blood circulation in your feet.
  • Healthy Eating. Eating right helps manage your weight, which is good for your toes.
  • Stay Active. Find activities you enjoy to keep moving.
  • Wash Your Feet Daily. Use lukewarm water and dry them well, especially between the toes.
  • Keep ‘Em Dry. Moisture can lead to infections, so keep those soles dry.
  • Wear Shoes That Fit Well. Say no to tight shoes that can cause blisters.
  • Socks Are Cool. Always wear clean, dry socks.
  • Trim Your Nails Carefully. Cut straight across and not too short to avoid ingrown toenails.
  • Do Not Go Barefoot. Even at home, wear slippers for protection.

Taking care of your stompers when you have diabetes might seem like extra work, but it’s worth it. Stay proactive, follow these simple steps, and keep your kickers happy and healthy.

Treating and Managing Neuropathic Symptoms

While it’s true that a complete cure is still out of reach, don’t lose hope! There are plenty of ways to fight back and keep those symptoms in check. Key approaches include:

Medications

  • Pain relievers. Over-the-counter options can help with mild symptoms.  Meanwhile, stronger prescriptions are available for more severe pain.
  • Anti-seizure medicines. Drugs like gabapentin and pregabalin, originally developed for epilepsy, can also alleviate pain.
  • Topical treatments. Some people find relief with creams or patches applied directly to the skin.

Therapies

  • Scrambler therapy. A non-invasive method that blocks pain signals from reaching the brain.
  • Physical therapy. Helps improve muscle strength, reduce pain, and enhance mobility through regular exercise.
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Alternative Treatment Options

  • Acupuncture. This ancient technique involves inserting needles into specific body points. This may reduce pain and improve function.
  • Alpha-Lipoic Acid. This antioxidant has shown potential in reducing neuropathic pain, which is often seen in cases related to glucose imbalances.
  • St. John’s Wort. Known for its antidepressant properties, this has also been used to alleviate certain types of nerve pain.
  • Capsaicin. Derived from chili peppers, its creams can be applied topically to reduce pain signaling from affected nerves.

Surgical Interventions

  • In cases where pain is caused by a physical anomaly, such as a tumor or herniated disk, surgery may be necessary to remove the source of discomfort.

It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment. The effectiveness of these approaches can vary based on the condition’s underlying cause.

While this condition can be a formidable opponent, remember that you’ve got a whole team ready to back you up. Don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider to craft your personalized care plan.

Conclusion

Your feet are precious, and they deserve the best care, especially when navigating the path of diabetes. This isn’t just about avoiding problems today; it’s about ensuring your feet are ready to carry you into a bright and active future.

Remember, seeking podiatric care isn’t just a good idea; it’s essential to your health team. They’re the experts who can spot trouble a mile away, guide you on the path of prevention, and stand by you with treatments!

Don’t wait for a problem to pop up. Be proactive about your foot wellness. Embrace those preventive measures, and, most importantly, team up with an expert who understands your unique needs.

Take the First Step!

At All South Bay Footcare, we understand the importance of proactive care. Our team of expert podiatrists is here to provide comprehensive diabetic foot care tailored to your needs and concerns.

Don’t wait for symptoms to escalate – take control of your foot health today by scheduling a consultation with us. Whether you’re seeking preventive care, diagnosis, or treatment for neuropathy, we’re here to help every step of the way.

To schedule your consultation, call us at 310-326-0202. You can also visit our website at https://www.allsouthbayfootcare.com/contact-us to fill out our online appointment form.

Your journey to optimal wellness starts here – let’s take the first step together!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can peripheral diabetic neuropathy be reversed?

While it cannot be completely reversed, its progression can be slowed down significantly. This can be done through strict sugar control and a healthy lifestyle. Early diagnosis and treatment are also crucial to preventing further nerve impairment.

Why does neuropathy often affect the feet?

It often affects the feet due to the combination of long nerve pathways that go to them. These nerves are vulnerable to damage from high glucose levels. Also, the feet are often the first to exhibit signs of nerve damage because they’re farthest from the central nervous system.

Can emotional stress affect neuropathy?

Yes, emotional stress can impact symptoms. Stress can elevate glucose levels, which can worsen nerve impairment over time. Additionally, stress may increase the perception of pain. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, exercise, and counseling can be beneficial.

Further Reading

Fetters, K. A. (2017, November 7). The 4 best exercises for managing diabetic neuropathy. EverydayHealth.Com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/type-2-diabetes/living-with/best-exercises-managing-diabetic-neuropathy/

Foods that are great for diabetic neuropathy – Piedmont Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, P.A. (2016, May 23). Piedmont Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. https://piedmontpmr.com/foods-great-diabetic-neuropathy/

WebMD Editorial Contributors. (2023, September 7). Alternative treatments for diabetes pain. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/peripheral-neuropathy-diabetes-pain-relief
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